Make the Memories Count
– by David Matthews 2
In the satirical science fiction movie “Mars Attacks”, a trailer park family mourns the loss of their oldest son; a soldier who was killed by Martians. They watched it happen as it was broadcast nationwide, and later they transformed their mobile home into a shrine and demanded that he be honored as a war hero… the greatest soldier that ever lived. And then they made sure that their youngest son, the protagonist of the film, never forget it.
The problem was that their “war hero” was nothing of the sort. He was a dim-witted chickenhawk that couldn’t so much as tie his boots without falling on his rear. When violence breaks out, he grabs his rifle, charges out to the first Martian he sees, curses at it, points the gun, and then watch as the magazine falls out. He then grabs the American flag, holds it out and proudly says “WE SURRENDER!” Mind you, this is done in front of the cameras, so the whole world sees this happening, as they also see him be dissolved into a smoking skeleton.
So much for him being a “war hero”.
Memorial Day is supposed to be a time when we remember the sacrifices our servicemen and women made for America. And there are many who have, and the list just keeps getting larger and larger. Fighting two wars (or “one-and-a-half”) with seemingly no end to them tends to do that.
The problem, though, is not that they gave their lives and died in the service of the nation. That kind of remembrance is just and called-for. The problem is neither the service nor the sacrifice… it’s the nation.
We tell ourselves that our soldiers fight and die for us and for what we believe in and cherish. But we make the mistake of personifying the cause; to tell ourselves that the soldiers fight and die for OUR personal reasons. We tell ourselves that they’re fighting and dying for OUR right to speak or OUR right to believe or OUR right to be safe in our homes…
But then, in the next breath, we turn around and we tell Joe Islam flat-out “no, YOU can’t have a mosque here! YOUR beliefs are DANGEROUS!” (As opposed to Father Molester and Reverend Scam-Artist and Minister Dominionism, of course.) We tell Jane Entertainer “no, YOU can’t bad-mouth our conservative President in a time of war”. (As opposed to those that call our current liberal president a racist, a communist, a foreign-born secret Muslim saboteur, and a traitor.) We tell our neighbors “YOU have to open up your home and your bank records and your personal lives and have them available online for anyone to sort through.” (As opposed to those that think it’s wrong for a conservative president to account for ANYTHING they do that screws with our economy.) We tell our children that the Constitution is this great doctrine that needs… NEEDS, I tell you… to be spread around the world, but while that’s going on, every portion of it is watered down and whittled away.
You know, the running joke when Iraq was trying to get their new post-Saddam constitution set up was to give them ours because we weren’t using it anymore. Cue the rimshot. And then, when the Iraqis came up with one that reflected their dominant Islamic faith, people here were wondering how that could have happened. HELLO! THEY FOLLOWED OUR LEAD! They didn’t follow our rhetoric; they followed our ACTIONS.
I have to wonder what the reaction would be to Civil War soldiers that fought and died to help eliminate slavery if they were to discover that millions of Americans are enslaved today through financial chains and controlled through whips made of fine-print. What would our servicemen that died in the Spanish-American War (a war that we were goaded into, by the way) do if they discover our shoddy immigration system and the extremist stances that suggest that any kind of reform is tyrannical and gross incompetence is called an “invasion”? What would our World War II servicemen and women that died to fight fascism think when our own country has been trading in our “precious freedoms” for fascism in piecemeal for over ten years now?
I’m sure there would be some that would shrug. There would be some that joined for their own reasons and really wouldn’t be fazed by the ideological hypocrisy that has come about.
But I’d also like to think that there would be a few soldiers that DID sign up because they believed they were fighting for something better. That would look at how we squandered the things that supposedly MAKE this country of ours so great and they would be wondering if they wasted their lives.
Let’s get brutally honest here… the cult of country is strong, addictive, and mindlessly easy to get swept into, and it is fueled by every serviceman that is killed on its many ventures. No matter if it is a “peacekeeping” mission or a hunt for international terrorists and high-seas pirates, every life lost “in the service” is another minor saint to beautify and canonize. It’s another face and another name to be propped up on a pedestal and told that we NEED to honor and cherish for the sake of the cult of country.
Yes we need to honor the lives lost and recognize the sacrifices made. But equally important is the cause itself. That is the burden of those in charge, and we as citizens need to remind them of that. Their sacrifices should count for something more than just political whim or corporate gain. You can’t claim that they died for freedom if there is none to die for. You can’t claim that they died to defend rights that YOU then cherry-pick concerning who gets to enjoy them and under what conditions. You cannot expect people to honor a sacrifice made for the country if the cause behind it only applies to some and not to others in this country.
You want the sacrifices to be remembered? Then HONOR their memories by making the sure the cause is worth sacrificing one’s service and life over.