Monday, May 27, 2013
Memorial Day 2013
The Bad: It's been 10 years since the (Second) Iraq War started, leading to many a retrospective. I find it depressing but not surprising that so many hawks have learned so little, and so many still insist that they were wrong for the right reasons, while those damn hippies were right for the wrong reasons. It's all bullshit, of course. Worse than the merely unrepentant hawks are the rabid ones, who are typically but not exclusively right-wing. (As I wrote elsewhere, I guess it wouldn't be Memorial Day or 11/11 without idiots angrily proving once again that they are obstinately insensate to any deeper reflection or profounder meaning to the holidays.) Although 11/11 means more to me, both it and Memorial Day are meant to give one pause, to remember the truth of the saying that war is hell, and consider that it should not be entered lightly. Wars shouldn't be started, for instance, to prove one's manhood by proxy, sending others to die on one's behalf, or to enrich private corporations. The times character and wisdom really matter are for weighty issues such as war and human rights (torture, but also basic treatment and due process). "Hippie-punching" is childish and obnoxious, but the incivility aspect is a minor concern compared to the real problem – encouraging gleeful bullying in the democratic process and making bad policy decisions based on spite, greed and vanity. The Good: People do exist that get it. If you want to read a great mea culpa on Iraq, check out John Cole's, originally written in 2008 and reran this year. The unrepentant hawks don't demonstrate a sliver of the integrity and courage that he does. Similarly, I see friends and acquaintances on blogs and social networks who write or link good pieces on Memorial Day. Some are military veterans, some have buried loved ones fallen in the line of duty, but most are just human beings with a general sense of decency. It's not a difficult puzzle to solve. But as long as such basic wisdom (reluctance to go to war, especially without good reasons) is denied by pundits, politicians and paid shills, more people need to speak up. Lastly, I usually catch the National Memorial Day and Independence Day concerts on PBS. They can be awfully schmaltzy, but I was impressed this year by two segments in the National Memorial Day Concert. One was a brief, harrowing account of D-Day, in a rerun segment featuring the late Charles Durning (a WWII vet who was a long-time participant in the concert, and got Joe Mantegna involved). The second was a lengthy dialogue between Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise recreating the experiences of twin brothers in the military. One lost a leg in Iraq, while the other committed suicide stateside. The surviving brother, National Guardsman Staff Sergeant Earl Granville, attended the concert and understandably teared up during the segment; he's become a spokesman on military suicides and PTSD. I appreciated that the organizers used the concert not just to sing a few patriotic songs, but actually addressed the costs of war and reached out to military personnel and their families who might be suffering.