Memorial Day is the federal holiday established to honor those who died fighting for the United States. It is not clear how the holiday originated (hard to believe in the modern age) with many cities claiming to have had the first celebration for the fallen. Tradition states that it began in Charleston, SC in 1865 with a celebration by newly freed slaves to honor those who died in the Civil War to free the slaves. Whether the national holiday grew from that or other memorials for the fallen soldiers, Memorial Day has grown to be one of the major holidays of the US, at least in part because it unofficially marks the beginning of the summer.
The irony is that it would seem that we only pay this holiday lip service as we continue to lose soldiers in conflict all around the world. One would think that any intelligent life would recognize the effects of violence on itself and cease perpetuating death and violence. How many orphans does it take to stop war? How many PTSD cases does it take to stop violence? When will we stop the idea that violence is a solution for any problem?
My father graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1945 and joined the occupational forces in Europe for three years following surrender by Germany. To this day he is apologetic about not being a part of the actual war against Germany. When he is asked if he served during World War II, he goes into a long story about not actually fighting Germans but he did have a violent incident with Russian troops. A more telling story is how kind and gentle he was before he went to West Point; and how angry and driven he was after that experience. Until the US Military Academy accepted women, graduates of West Point were quick to point out that the experience of going to West Point makes men out of boys. I am not sure what the tag line is now, but I shudder to think how many sweet, kind and gentle teenagers were transformed into killing machines and then unleashed upon an unsuspecting public without any deprogramming. This process continues unto this day.
The affects of military service is overwhelming our VA hospitals and becoming more and more of a problem with PTSD and chemical warfare poisoning, not to mention the physical damage many wounded warriors have to live with. How much suffering do we have to experience before we stand up and cry “ENOUGH”! It is clear that we are losing the war against terrorism. A case in point is the Boston Marathon bombing. The lone surviving terrorist was sentenced to death several times over. One death will never repay the damage done to the victims of that day. Ironically enough, death is what the surviving terrorist wanted; now he gets to go to heaven and have 72 virgins. Somehow something is not computing.
The truth is the wars that we are waging in other countries will likely bankrupt our country. We spend trillions of dollars in research every year on how to kill our enemies better. We could simply buy our enemies lock stock and barrel more cheaply. I am not suggesting that we do that, but I am questioning why we spend so much money on death and violence. Having the biggest and most deadly weapons in the world has not kept us safe.
This Memorial Day we have to wake up and become more conscious about what we are doing as individuals and as a nation to perpetuate the fallen. We are the victims of our own device. There is too much money flowing into the hands of those that profit at war. There is too much disinformation being fed to us by politicians that want us to continue funding war and violence.
I believe that we should honor our fallen and demand an end to war by whatever means are available. We have the resources, technology and intelligence to do so. We are funding both sides of every conflict currently waging in the world. We are so afraid that nations will turn on us if we don’t fund their violence that we have sold our grandchildren’s destiny to continue the fighting. We need to stop making weapons of mass destruction. We need to clean up our mess. We need to stop sending soldiers into harm’s way. We need to learn the lessons of our past so that we do not repeat them. The world will not support the status quo much longer. We either have to chose freedom or totalitarianism. We have to choose peace.