Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why I hate Memorial Day

Memorial Day honors the tragedy of those who died for their country. All over the nation, ceremonies take place at cemeteries of the fallen. Volunteers place flags on graves; taps is played; flags are furled; and stern-faced members of veterans' organizations attend in solemn rows in their caps and insignia.

It's not a time for cynicism. And yet, that's just what I feel. As a nation, our feelings are manipulated on what should be a day of sorrow and regret.

Let me be clear--we should justly honor the sacrifice of those who died in war. But the way we do it glorifies war to yet another generation. It deludes our youth into believing it's their duty to enlist in the next crusade to benefit politicians and the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about. The martial music and stirring speeches perpetuate the lie that the fallen "died for our freedom." They did not.

Did our soldiers die heroically? Often they did. But for the most part, they died uselessly.

War is a failure of diplomacy. Instead of flags and martial music, we should offer apologies to the dead for yet again failing to avert the catastrophe of war. Our vow to the dead should be to redouble our efforts to find peaceful ways of settling disputes. On this day we should mourn not just those who perished in war, but our repeated failure to move beyond the barbaric practice of officially killing strangers just because someone in power who stands to gain from war convinced us that it's in our best interest to do so.

The message of Memorial Day should be "Never again! We will not send yet another generation of youth to the killing fields."


Eisenhower on war:

"When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war." (Press conference: 1953)

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity. War settles nothing." (Speech: Ottawa, Canada, January 10, 1946)

Dwight D. Eisenhower
34th President of the United States

(Courtesy of West Point Graduates Against the War)

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