Inspection- Memorial Day

 The lyrics at the end are one verse from a song I wrote for my mother who died when I was young. But it very well could be used by those who have lost love ones in war, serving the country, or trying to make it better. Their spirits will always be with us, inside and how we see the world around us. Though few may remember, they made a difference.


by Ken Carman

 I never went to Nam. I was draft-able for a year, but my number never came up. I probably would have had a desk job at best: due to an accident when I was a kid. I’m missing part of my left foot. But, considering my politics at the time I would have gone.
 Yes, people change, and they don’t necessarily become more conservative, or liberal, or more anything. Life just changes us. I have always felt those who claim they haven’t changed are either lying to themselves, or are missing something in the maturity department. For pretty much by definition life is a learning process. You don’t learn, you don’t mature.
 I used to perform Memorial Days at some campground when I was on the road and I was touring more. When the show was over I would often go to a graveyard and sing songs I’d written over the years to the veterans, and other folks who were there. They’re a great audience, and having worked part way through school in cemeteries I still find cemeteries peaceful places. There’s one specifically I used to enjoy in the Berkshires near Chester that overlooks the mountains off of a very curvy filled part of route 20. Below that: Walker Family Campground. I performed there many, many times.
 Memorial Day, of course, is for honoring our vets, alive and gone. For honoring those who died in the swamps of Nam, the craggy, rough terrain of Afghanistan, deserts of Iraq, Normandy: cut down sometimes before they even reached the beach. Both Confederate and Union soldiers deserve to be honored, for this shouldn’t be a day for partisan pap, old animosities: no matter how much future generations carried the torch of a burning grudge. And I would also like to add those who refused to fight, but didn’t run, didn’t spit on anyone and probably went to prison. I know that’s a tough call, but not all wars are just, not all wars are right, and sometimes we best serve our nation by saying, “No,” respectfully.
  That’s true, in my opinion, no matter what side of any aisle it comes from. Forcing people to kill when they sincerely believe the cause is wrong, or wrong headed… well, I respect those who go anyway and try to make it all better, but I also respected those who went to prison instead of going when there was a draft, or even when the new mission seems so wrong a soldier decides his conscience is more important.
  I’d like to stop and honor Pat Tillman who did go, did do his duty, but still made it plain he thought much of what they were doing was wrong. Because of his honesty cowards fragged him, “cowards” who really didn’t really believe in the freedom they claimed to be fighting for.
  We are a free nation. As the bumper sticker says: “Freedom isn’t free.” That cuts both ways. Part of the “not free” part is respecting those who disagree with us: fragging them is a traitorous act, understanding they have rights, just like you, is the price you must pay if you truly believe in freedom. Otherwise nothing separates us from nations who simply force their citizens to do whatever, who insist everyone must think, and believe, exactly the same.
 That’s why the draft, as it used to be, was wrong. Perhaps insisting on public service of some kind isn’t a bad idea. But any draft that forces one class of people to fight, and gave exemptions to others, wasn’t “free” at all.
 Ironic how the draft went away once those exemptions started to disappear, eh?
  Something we need to work on as a society, for if only certain classes have to kill, fight our wars, no matter what they think of that war, we are not very free, are we? I remember my father talking about Mickey Rooney in World War II. Rooney was in my father’s unit, but because he was who he was he was untouchable: allowed an entourage that followed him around like love sick puppies. Do the dirty work? Are you kidding?
  Such should never happen in a “free” country.
  This column is dedicate to all our vets, all who died defending their country, who died fighting despite questions they may have had, or died defending their right to disagree: respectfully. It’s also dedicated to those who have passed on who raised the soldiers, like my mother who raised my brother Ted who did go to Nam. Dedicated to those who have passed on, who few will ever know, who helped continue building this society in small ways, ways few would recognize. To those who died on 9/11: especially those who went back in again and again, or stopped the plane in Pennsylvania.
  To you and so many more… we truly stand on the shoulders of some amazing people, mostly forgotten. One hopes we continue to use their memory, their sacrifice, and build an even better, more just, more free, world.

I come here to sing to you
Memorial Days
I know you can’t hear me
Still I sing all the same
How are things
Where you are
Back here
They’re still insane
The way we treat each other
Oh, how you would complain
Guess I’m selfish
You might say
Wish I could hear you complain today

-From The Memorial Day Song by Ken Carman

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Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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