Parades, flags waving, honor the soldiers: their conflicts and the war dead…
The day before Memorial Day my green Nissan 98 was on Connecticut 190. Rural scenery breezed by when; while going around a corner, I heard a screech. My brake? My foot? Oh… was that me? Are those two cop cars blocking my way? Wondering what tragedy had befallen some quaint eastern CT town; I attempted to cut around the mess… and finally succeeded. I did notice while skirting the village that the only rational way through it had been blocked for a parade.
Deep in my mind something bothered me. I wasn’t sure just what, yet.
On Memorial Day I went to a cemetery to write a song while waiting for a movie. I often practice and write in cemeteries. No one bothers me and the dead are good listeners. When your main job in life is entertaining the very young, good listeners mean a lot. You might be surprised, but I have found that adults are often far worse listeners than children.
In the cemetery that morning I finally realized what was bothering me: Memorial Day.
So much potential wasted on flag waving; controlled by those a little too eager to justify any war: no matter how irrational the conflict. Yet, despite this, Memorial Day is a great opportunity for searching our very soul as a nation.
Did they die in vain?
Do we honor our promises to them, or are they mere political pawns sucked into it by promises never kept and the lies told by our leaders? Well, to answer both, sometimes, “yes,” most often, “no.” To celebrate Memorial Day without also observing how soldiers are having benefits pulled like a rug from beneath their feet, or are made to stay longer in harm’s way because the government lied when they were told how long they would be there, makes the day worse than a cruel joke: makes Memorial Day an insult to the very memory of those who have gone before. The laughing at their plight may be silent, but to let these problems pass without serious: respectful, discussion… is as cruel as mirth directed at a cripple; and sometimes it’s exactly that.
During the 60s my first; close to NYC, high school spent a day or two every year holding discussions in each class about Vietnam. I would love to see Memorial Day become more like that, rather than just one more excuse to boost the profits of flag factories, and feed the blood lust of politicians who use war as mostly a political weapon to defeat their: internal, opponents. Sometimes it seems pretty obvious that what they really believe; beneath the obligatory “we’re protecting America” rhetoric, is that war is really nothing more than a mere vehicle to help their party win elections and silence critics. They just abandon one “vehicle” when they are forced to and try to hop into another: while we’re left with the bill… spilled blood, lost Americans who will never see their family, or their children grow up, and wasted resources that could have been used for so many necessary things. We really need to shut down that metaphorical “car lot” for good.
Still… that’s not enough. I fear I would still find the holiday as hollow as a rotting, gutted, Halloween jack-o’-lantern: and about as gross and ghoulish in nature.
We have so many dead we don’t honor who have fought wars: just not “wars” officially sanctioned by the war makers. The civil rights workers who died in Mississippi died in just such a “war.” Matthew Shepard was crucified during the ongoing conflict being waged against those who will not follow orders barked out by religious crackpots who think they can tell others whom they are allowed to love: whom they can marry. What about our John O’Neills who forewarned us about the possibility of something just like 9/11; and other truth-tellers who have been silenced; either permanently or by those who would rather not hear? So many people who have told us what our government, our industries, have done that they shouldn’t be doing. This is a war that will never end, and those who always come down on the side of those do the silencing should hang their head in shame every Memorial Day. They are, in my opinion, the antithesis of “American.”
As long as patriotic holidays are controlled by the very people who refused to listen, who silence others, who continue to attempt to turn what has been somewhat accurately referred to as a “melting pot” of all kinds of different people into something more Aryan, more akin to a single minded collection of goose-steps, I will find holidays like Memorial Day very empty.
Memorial Day a “patriotic holiday?”
You’ve got to be kidding.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over thirty 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.