Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Today, many will remember those who have died while serving in the U.S. military. For many, that will also mean thinking of those who have been wounded, in body, mind and spirit. According to Veterans For Peace, in 2009 and 2010, “the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than to combat.” It seems appropriate, too, to remember the families of all of these people, and the many – civilian and military – of other nations who are also “casualties of war.”
But what do we remember about today’s deployed? Afghanistan, the “forgotten war,” and the apparently frequently “forgotten” who endure multiple deployments? It’s not a big story, the war in Afghanistan, not in terms of the attention it gets by media, Electeds and large numbers of “we the people.” It began way too long ago – 2001 – to be all that “news worthy.” And of course, the war in Iraq is over, sort of, so it’s even more easily forgotten. The whole “war on terror” has become a daily Homeland Security reality of the near boring sort of news. It’s so easy to forget the human costs, at least when we’re not one of the deployed or family and friends of such.
Tom Engelhardt at Nation of Change:
… when it comes to the major war the United States is still fighting, now in its 11th year, the word remembrance is surely inappropriate, as is the ‘Memorial’ in Memorial Day. It’s not just that the dead of the Afghan War have largely been tossed down the memory hole of history (even if they do get official attention on Memorial Day itself). Even the fact that Americans are still dying in Afghanistan seems largely to have been forgotten, along with the war itself. …
Engelhardt does something I think is a good way to show where Memorial Day has very current meaning, listing the hometowns of members of the U.S. military killed this month,
… announcement by announcement, placed at the graveside of a war that we can’t bear to remember and that simply won’t go away. …
Consider it an elegy to the dead of second- or third-tier cities, suburbs, and small towns whose names are resonant exactly because they are part of your country, but seldom or never heard by you.
Spencerport, New York; Wichita, Kansas; Warren, Arkansas; West Chester, Ohio; Alameda, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Stow, Ohio; Clarksville, Tennessee; Chico, California; Jeffersonville, Kentucky; Yuma, Arizona; Normangee, Texas; Round Rock, Texas; Rolla, Missouri; Lucerne Valley, California; Las Cruses, New Mexico; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Overland Park, Kansas; Wheaton, Illinois; Lawton, Oklahoma; Prince George, Virginia.
Here’s another suggestion of what Memorial Day can provide, by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, at Common Dreams:
Facing the truth is hard to do, especially the truth about ourselves. So Americans have been sorely pressed to come to terms with the fact that after 9/11 our government began to torture people, and did so in defiance of domestic and international law. …
It’s no secret such cruelty occurred; it’s just the truth we’d rather not think about. But Memorial Day is a good time to make the effort. Because if we really want to honor the Americans in uniform who gave their lives fighting for their country, we’ll redouble our efforts to make sure we’re worthy of their sacrifice … .
One other view, from Leah Bolger, at Veterans For Peace: (Emphasis in original)
Memorial Day: Pick Your Perversion …
(Memorial Day) through the years has become a day to remember all U.S. military personnel who have died in combat. Increasingly, it evolved from simply decorating the graves and solemn memorialization of those killed, to opportunities for flag-waving, nationalistic displays with parades, marching bands and political speeches. Today, it has become a perversion of its original intent in two ways.
Perversion #1—Commercialism/Consumerism/Entertainment …
Perversion #2—American Exceptionalism
This perversion of Memorial Day is typified by the glorification of war and everyone who participated in it. God is always on our side (which means we are always right). …
It is very dangerous when the people of a nation believes it can do no wrong; that it can operate outside of international law … .
On this Memorial Day, Veterans For Peace asks you to mourn not only for Americans killed in battle, but also for those killed by Americans in battle. We ask you to be willing to accept the fact that these war deaths did not have to happen—that they are actually in vain. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died in American wars of aggression. That is a tragedy and is a truth that must be accepted and for which we must take responsibility.
None of this is to take away from remembering, with gratitude and respect, the individuals Memorial Day is at least suppose to honor. But I wish we could get even one day for the nation to remember we’re still at war; people – military and civilian; U.S., Afghanistan and more – are being killed. Today. It would be a very good thing if we’d stop an eleven years and counting war, and not add more names to remember next Memorial Day.