I was not going to post today because Monday holidays are not big blog days, but I am going to offer a few words about Memorial Day.
Born in the late 50’s, I was very aware of the Vietnam War as a kid. My parents shouted things like “Give ’em hell!” or “Beat those Commies!” or “America, love it or leave it!” They were no fans of peace protestors because WAR meant defending AMERICA. Now in fairness to my parents, both now of blessed memory, they came of age at other times, and they also truly appropriated the fear and hatred of communism that we associate with that time. I am by no means suggesting a love of communism, I’m just saying that the pushing up against it was the defining factor of much of the 50’s and 60’s.
We all knew people who were drafted, some in Vietnam, some got sent elsewhere. The only soldier that I knew who died during the Vietnam war was my neighbor. He was stationed in Germany and was due home. I was about 8 at the time, so I have no idea what happened, but apparently he got ill the day before he was supposed to depart for the US, and died. All the flags and banners that were hung days before came down, the old Italian ladies dressed in black, his fiancee was left to mourn her man. Everyone who was so relieved that he was not sent to southeast Asia was left drowning in a pool of tears.
Me? At age 8 I was already a peacenik-in-training. My 10 I was scrawling peace signs in the fogged windows of our car on long trips, with my father – himself a WWII Air Force vet – yelling at me to “cut the crap!” *sigh* Secretly I made peace signs with my fingers as I stared into the mirror when alone in the bathroom, and longed to run off with hippies.
Today I have lived through a number of conflicts beyond Vietnam. The first Gulf war, the second Iraq war, and of course Afghanistan. I have seen my nephew, who joined the Army around the time of the first Gulf war grow into someone he might not have been (read: it was good) had he not enlisted. Go figure. That’s why I am less of an absolutist than I might have been at another time.
So here we are celebrating Memorial Day, and I am left at a loss. How do we honor so many lives given in defense of our nation? And how do we justify the folly of war? As for me, I have a great deal of trouble reconciling the two… and trust me, I do not wish to disrespect or dishonor anyone who gave their life.
These are the things on my mind on this rainy Memorial Day. What do you think? I hope you return tomorrow, because I will be publishing an important guest post. The story that will be told humanizes the faces of different nations during a time of war – and forges bonds in these current days. It is very powerful, so please have a look.
And with that, I offer you a song. “A Soldier’s Things” by Tom Waits.
I have so much difficulty celebrating Memorial Day because I am a fairly strict pacifist. I view war as a tragedy. I’m not convinced by the war rhetoric that we are fighting for freedom. But at the same time, I don’t want to condemn soldiers. The way Vietnam vets were treated was disgusting. I know so many people who joined the military so that they could pay for college. I know that there are soldiers who have done sacrificial things for the good of others, but Memorial Day can be a celebration of nationalism. My Facebook feed is filled with far right memes, which disturb me for their anti-immigration, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim rhetoric. Memorial Day reminds me of the tragedy of war. So many innocent young people killed.
I share your discomfort Fariba. Thank you for your comment.
Fran. We remember the fallen in all conflicts on November 11th each year, the day on which the guns on the Western Front finally fell silent to end the “war. to end all wars”. Sadly it did not and the world has suffered immeasurably since. However,I was heartened that the Pope gave your President a book on peace and to hear his reaction ” We could do with some peace!” I pray that President Trump will do everything he can to achieve it.