The Inadequacies of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is really prowar day. It is an unthinking paean to those Americans who died in war. It does not memorialise  those millions who we slaughtered, tortured, mutilated or nuked in war. It does not question why American service personnel died in war. It is inadequate. It merely wants us to weep and mourn for our war dead. Yes we should. Yet it confers uncritially upon the American evil war machine a free pass without bringing justice to the American politico-military leadership that gets us into war.

The United States is a Sparta: a country propelled by racism, vengeance, and hatred of the “other.” We fight vicious, immoral, at times genocidal wars and more frequently unjust wars. Memorial Day should condemn or at least debate the “reason” Americans and others died in our interminable wars. We need to step back and ask on this and future Memorial Days, “Why did these women and men die and why were they outnumbered by civilians who are not even remotely remembered on this egregious “Memorial” day.

I went to Arlington National Cemetary in April, 2010 on a trip to Washington. I went ostensibly to pay my respects to Senator Edward Moore Kennedy the last of the Kennedy brothers and in some ways the most progressive. Yet I was sicken and enraged with all these signs about “hallowed ground” and how visitors should be silent and courteous as they walk among row after row of dead soldiers, sailors, marines, airpersons that died in all these unnjust imperialistic wars. We should not be silent and ordered about by our government but rebellious and dissentious in demanding war crimes trials-not mere Winter Soldier Investigations–but real war crimes trials for the Kissingers, the Yoos, the Bushes, the Cheneys, the Clintons who waged unjust war from Kosovo, to Vietnam, to Iraq and the stupid war in Afghanistan.

Flags are fig leafs for imperialism unless they induce introspection. Memorial services for American K.I.A. are incomplete without questioning the authorities and the dominant popular culture that propel this nation into such violence and bestiality. I am not opposed to remembering those who died in war. Indeed, my life has been one of vigorously opposing war which got me suspended, remember, in 2002. That was an antiwar e-mail to Cadet Kurpiel: remember that.

Memorial Day is inadequate; it is incomplete; it is nationalistic and actually creates an environment in which more war dead are inevitable. It covers up the economic and racially driven hyperpower: it shrouds the evil of war; it glorifies those who died without demanding justice for their unnecessary deaths. When a nation glorifies war it creates fertile ground for future war and creates a culture in which even lying about military service in a genocidal war of Vietnam becomes the norm: Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Illiniois warmonger who voted or the Iraq war Congressperson Mark Kirk,  Mt Holyoke College liar Professor Joseph Ellis.

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