Monday, May 25, 2009

A Balancing Act

The lead picture and the one beneath is of the Memorial Day parade here in downtown Hudson, Massachusetts. It's a typical parade out of thousands that are no doubt transpiring across America today. Mixed in with the somberness of remembering our war dead are 18 year-olds happy to begin their vacation before getting ready for college and people already looking forward to going to the beach on this, the unofficial first day of summer.

Some sense of celebration and spectacle is necessary, I guess. After all, we figuratively appear in sackcloth and ashes only at funerals and about 5000 families have already had enough of that these past seven and a half years. The local high school band made up of children much too young to enlist will strike up tunes, their jingoistic military marching music Dopplered into tuneless cacophany. Local politicians like my boss march behind military personnel of which he was never a part just to put in a pre-emptive campaign appearance as joggers struggle to ignore and trot past them during their strutting and speechifying. A strategically-parked ice cream truck does a brisk business.

So many want a piece of the war dead that they're almost an afterthought.

A Memorial Day parade by necessity has to strike a balancing act, in mixing the somber with the joyful, the military with the civilian and true respect for our war dead, living veterans and active duty personnel with blind glorification of the death that these men and women in uniform are occasionally asked to risk and even deal.

Parades, however, as with wakes, funerals and memorial services, were never intended for the dead but the living. We use Memorial Day as a way of assuaging our muted guilt for not thinking during the other 364 days of the ultimate sacrifices that countless millions of men and women had made and will continue to make to help found, defend and perpetuate our nation and its ideals.

Bloggers, especially the progressive and liberal kind, keep the troops in our thoughts year round yet somehow even that doesn't seem to be enough. This, I theorize, is why we blog. We blog in the most transient, topical and perishable of mediums because it is all we have to ensure that these brave men and women are not forgotten, that those still alive and in one uniform or another will be treated right. That they will not get sent into a proxy or oil war based on a pack of lies and then criminally underequipped and disrespected. So we do not have to burden our already overburdened memories and failing throats by reading aloud that many more names in cemeteries.

We had made much since Shock and Awe began on March 19, 2003 about George W. Bush never attending the funeral of a single soldier or Marine killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan. This was by design because the White House wanted the luxury of waging reckless, irresponsible war without showing us civilians the consequences of war. The ignoring of our war dead was so complete and inflexible that the flag-draped coffins coming off the transports at Dover AFB in Delaware were not allowed to be photographed and then Senator Joseph Biden was not allowed to be present to comfort the families.

At the same time, we'd heard stories about our war dead being brought back home not on military transports but as freight in order to save costs, a revelation that made then Senator Hillary Clinton livid.

Therefore, on Memorial Day we need to do more than to, at best, dimly and vaguely keep in mind sacrifices made long ago without context or the facts. We need to also keep in mind what we're continuing to do to these honored dead and their families. We need to do as both the netroots and the real world grassroots to continue holding this new administration's feet to the fire, to remind our 44th president that he will not get a free pass just because he is a Democrat and that once in a while we expect him to attend the funeral of a fallen soldier or Marine. That he is willing to show us, unlike his furtive predecessor, that even a just war does indeed have consequences.


At May 25, 2009 at 11:36 PM, Anonymous Lisa G said...

That brought tears to my eyes, and yes I agree. We need to think of our current military and the vets too. My dad was a vet of Korea and never spoke of it - we need more vets to tell their stories.

At May 30, 2009 at 1:18 AM, Anonymous Lisa G said...

My son has an un-natural love for the military and all things like it. I have done my best to discourage this, yet he persists. I am at my wits end with this child; I don't want my fist born to be cannon fodder for a war that should not be fought.


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