Yeah, I chose just about the cheesiest song about war you could possibly pick for a Memorial Day-themed post. I don’t care.
The thing is, the hero in this song dies. People die in wars. It’s one of those ugly facts that we just can’t avoid. It’s why we have a Memorial Day in the first place. To remember the men and women and service animals that died protecting American ideals.
Some people have co-opted this day as an excuse to wave the flag about all service people, living or dead, but the point of this day is to remember the dead. To honor them with solemn ceremonies. To find a way to send thanks to the universe for their sacrifice. I don’t knock service people; they do an incredibly difficult and dangerous job so that people like me don’t have to. Because we have an all volunteer military, these people chose this job (we didn’t always, and I am especially indebted to those who didn’t choose to serve but were conscripted). And a significant number of them never come home. But Memorial Day isn’t about knee-jerk patriotism, and anyone who says it is ought to be reminded of the horrors of war.
Because it is horrible. William Tecumseh Sherman got a lot of flack for the total war he waged on the South during the Civil War, but he had a point. War is hell, and he made sure every living being in his line of fire knew it. It is violent and ugly and unfair, and it should only be used as the last resort when there is literally no other choice to be made. Too many times lately, young men and women have been deliberately sent into the line of fire without clear cause or justification. The “war on terror” isn’t a clear enough directive or reason to endanger anyone’s lives. You cannot fight a war on an idea, an emotion. The idea or emotion will always prevail, and you will look like a vicious war-monger. You want to stop terrorists? Stop blowing civilians up. Stop invading countries that have not committed an act of war on you. (No people, Afghanistan and Iraq did not attack us on 9/11; it was a group of thugs that were actually mostly Saudi Arabian. Why didn’t we attack that country? Oh yeah. Oil.) Most terrorists are simply criminals. A street gang with better weapons and religious zealotry. Al Qaeda and ISIS are basically the equivalent of the Crips and the Bloods. We should be arresting them and putting them in prison, not waging war on a bunch of innocent civilians. Too many people have already died on this incredibly futile quest. It is time to end it.
I am not dishonoring the dead to say these things. I am honoring them. Because the ideals they believed they were fighting for were ideals like the freedom of speech I am exercising. I don’t agree with any war, but the ongoing wars we’ve been waging for the last fifteen years are especially egregious. All we’ve succeeded in all this bloodshed is to destabilize a significant portion of the planet, damage the environment, waste a LOT of money, and kill a whole bunch of people. Oh, and there’s the added bonus of the destruction of hundreds of thousands of artifacts from the beginning of civilization. Way to go, America.
If you have a service person in your circle who died in combat, please light a candle for them. Display your flag if you have one. And go ahead and enjoy your barbecue. But remember that there is a way to stop all the Billys in the world from becoming dead heroes. Wage peace.