Monday, May 31, 2010
Today is Memorial Day in my native
. The day when we honor those who died fighting in our nation’s wars. United States
When I was a kid, it was hard to think of it as anything but a holiday – the day after the last day of school, the day we hoped and prayed it would be warm enough for the public swimming pool to open, a day for picnics with the family or when Mom would drive out to the greenhouse to buy some flowers to set out. It was a day of parades with brass bands playing stirring patriotic marches and with middle-aged and old men dressing up like soldiers once more to join uniformed National Guardsmen and other troops in carrying the colors to the Veterans Monument at the Courthouse and then out to the cemetery in tearful remembrance of their fallen brothers.
But for us, as kids, it was just the first exciting small-town event to kick off the wonderful, lazy days of small-town summer.
The problem is that this childhood Memorial Day illusion is only that. And since it appears impossible for the
to get through a single generation without a war, each generation has its own. And as the realities of those wars end up touching us as a generation and, indeed as individuals, no matter how hard we may try to ignore them, Memorial Day eventually takes on a new and sober meaning. United States
War is not noble, no matter how noble the intentions of those who actually fight the wars may be. Wars are not, as most leaders would have us believe, honorable or winnable in any real sense other than in that of achieving the political and economic ends of those in power. War is hell. War is merely the wholesale slaughter of one people by another for reasons that have little or nothing to do with why we are told we must fight them. And as war becomes more “effective” the number of civilian casualties grows relatively greater all the time, threatening to become exponential.
The best way, then, to honor our war dead, is by seeking to ensure that war becomes the most unthinkable of all means to an end. No society that rejects homicide as a heinous crime should find war logical…and much less, glorious.