Image courtesy Oleg Volk, A Human Right
Please forgive the somewhat rambling nature of today's thoughts. Emotion runs high.
I have had a hard time with Memorial Day in recent years. It disgusts me that the societal message regarding the holiday has become essentially this: "thou shalt show unquestioning respect for those who believed in a political system that sent them to their deaths for entirely political purposes, and thou shalt never, ever question that political system itself, because to do so would somehow stain their sacred honor."
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
Look, I certainly don't much identify with the "peace at any price" crowd, feigning nominally anti-war rhetoric, yet perfectly willing to use the murderous power of the state to force others to "do the right thing" under the color of law, while piously claiming that they care about human life above all else. Please. Nor can I stomach the mindless "duty, honor, country" types who start to get that "if you're not with us, you're agin' us" look in their eyes when the faintest hint of a contrary viewpoint starts to come out. These are opposing halves of a brain that has been totally switched off.
Some people really are, truly, anti-war. Which means, effectively, anti-state, because everything the state does, whether sending perfectly good people into harm's way in far-off lands for no legitimate purpose, or sending its armed thugs after its own people in equally ridiculous attempts to control their lives, is war. "War is the health of the state," wrote Randolph Bourne, and heavily-decorated General Smedley Butler wrote a work called War is a Racket, describing the military-industrial complex from within. I've yet to see a principled rebuttal of either concept.
And on Memorial Day, the American state cynically exploits those it has successfully sent to their deaths, by using those tragedies to celebrate its self-sanction* to do more of the same! We are "treated" to displays of military might, jingoistic flag-waving, and above all the notion that if you question why these good people had to die for their country, you are somehow not a team player.
(Mark that well: the state resents the idea of you questioning the need for tragedies it is trying to exploit in your name.)
News flash: Americans didn't become Americans by being "team players", but rather by demanding independence for themselves and for those other than themselves. The evidence is right there in even the most postmodern chest-thumping government-school textbook.
News flash: Almost every one of those deaths really was pointless. Every justification we have been given that somehow "proved" the necessity of military involvement has in fact proven, with just a little time to overcome the propaganda and the slightest bit of digging around, to be either outright false or deliberately misleading--time and again we have learned that war is an expedient to the regime in power, which will lie without compunction to get the war it wants. What will be the next "Gulf of Tonkin Incident" that we will "discover" to be a lie or outright fabrication? (Stay tuned, it won't be long. Politicians' lips are moving all the time.)
Call me crazy (I know some will, with--ahem--nary a thought), but I have a very hard time feeling like I'm doing anything but spitting on decent people by "supporting the troops", which is codespeak for "support the war effort". (Understand this clearly: politicians do not care one whit about "the troops", except that they need a continuing supply of them to force their will upon others.)
I do not support the war effort. Period.
I do support human beings, among which I count many of those we remember on Memorial Day. Some appear to have been fantastically brave, valorous, and decent people. The stories of self-sacrifice for their brothers in arms, or even, sometimes, for noncombatants, can be inspiring. These people did not deserve to meet the end they got--hoodwinked into belief in the decisions of sociopaths (by definition!) by trained propagandists--and I cannot help but wish they had each lived to put those same qualities into play among their peaceable neighbors. Just imagine, as but one example, having the resourcefulness and determination of an Audie Murphy available in a depressed fishing village, or even as a "lowly" volunteer firefighter.
Kent McManigal reminds us that those in uniform are not the only ones worth remembering in the fight for freedom, either.
Most of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for your liberty never knew they would. They died just going about their own lives as they saw fit. People like Kathryn Johnston, Oscar Grant, Aiyana Jones, Isaac Singletary, and Sean Bell. In fact, their biggest connection to your liberty is that they were killed, murdered, by those who are the sworn enemies of liberty in all its forms. Their sacrifice is defined more by their enemy than it is by any other connection to those of us who strive for true justice and liberty for ALL.
Then there are those who have not been killed for standing up for liberty, but who have been imprisoned, or otherwise "legally" punished. They are still casualties of the war on your freedom. Some of them knew what they were getting in to, and others may have never intended to stand up for your rights, but once again, those who oppose liberty drew the line and these other people ended up on our side of it, whether that was their intention or not. People like Cory Maye, Len Savage, Ed Brown, Marc Emery, Larken Rose, Julian Heicklen, George Donnelly, John Stagliano, Wayne Fincher, and so many more that I did not mention. Their sacrifice is no less real.
My sincerest thanks to all of them, known and unknown.
Likewise, Butler Shaffer has his own take on the holiday:
I have grown weary of the war-lovers taking over every holiday and exploiting them for their own deadly ambitions. Turning July 4th into a celebration of militaristic statism (see the old Bing Crosby musical Holiday Inn) was bad enough. But then seeing a Santa Claus in a flag-draped Uncle Sam suit on a Christmas card a couple years ago was simply too much.
Memorial Day is one holiday on which I often hold an “Anti-War Film Festival,” inviting a few friends – who, being friends of mine, have no need to be reminded of the evils of warfare – to watch what I consider the best of the films that bring war into disrepute. Instead of going out to a cemetery to join an “honor guard” gang to play taps and fire their rifles to celebrate the deaths of victims of warfare, I suggest such an anti-war film festival for your own consideration.
It is a difficult day, when expressing thoughts like this publicly gets you ostracized for being cold and uncaring.
That pinging sound you may hear is your irony meter, functioning normally.
* Well they're sure as hell not asking us any more. Have you noticed that "we" haven't even bothered to declare a war in over seventy years? That is no accident. Both getting the public's consent and abiding by "our" previous treaties is...inconvenient, and is apparently simply being ignored with total success.