Regarding Sacrileges and Sacrifices
Regarding Sacrileges and Sacrifices
I am about to commit the worst sacrilege a person can in America today. You can rob banks or start wars, but crossing this line will land you in social Siberia. Especially on Memorial Day, which purportedly commemorates the men and women who have died in military service to the United States.
My great sin is declaring that patriotism belongs to the past, and “our troops” in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t “heroes,” but essentially, mercenaries.
Commentators dare not question the motives, bravery, and unselfishness of the men and women who are the sharp edge of the spear of America’s foreign policy. It’s become de rigueur to lambaste the Commander in Chief, even calling him a reckless narcissist. But to even suggest that our troops might be part of the problem is, in the supercharged lexicon of American chauvinism since 9.11, to put oneself beyond the boundaries of acceptable debate.
Nonetheless, “our troops” aren’t “heroes,” but ordinary young men and women, most of whom, rather than hearing the call of country in signing up for the military, saw a way out of poverty and bad home lives.
Our troops aren’t the last vessels of American greatness, but brothers and sons, fathers and mothers thrust into a black hole that was made, not by merely two men in the White House, but by years, even decades, of arrogance and aggressiveness abroad, and narrowness and neglect at home.
Our troops aren’t diamonds that have been combed out of the dunghill of American society, but young men and women forced to grow up immorally and amorally under horrible conditions. They are people who act, and react, as probably people of any country would under such circumstances---a few nobly, many decently, a few horribly.
Americans, in their blissful ignorance, were completely undone by 9.11, unable to comprehend ‘why they hate us so much.’ Anyone who suggests that the evil and indefensible acts of that day have anything to do with the diabolical machinations of a government that has played all sides against its narrowly defined interests for decades, is lumped into the crazy camp with wackos like the Reverend John Hagee. (Hagee said Hurricane Katrina was punishment for New Orleans because that city was due to have a gay pride parade the day it struck.)
There are no days for reflection in America anymore, not Sundays, and not even our most solemn national holidays. Of course there is no way that our leaders could or should make the people reflect on the sacrifice, needful and needless, by those that died in the service of their country.
Memorial Day should apply not just to military and spy services, but to the unheralded peacemakers, journalists, teachers, and aid workers caught in the crossfire of a world that this country has done so little in recent decades to heal, and done so much to shred and splatter with blood and suffering.
All war is evil, but the Iraq war is one of the most evil in human history. Even so, it has ironically ‘evolved’ into a self-made police action, with a stated or unstated mission to keep Shia and Sunni and Kurdish factions from slaughtering each other.
When Michelle Obama said that “Barack will never let you go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uniformed,” I wished she was running for president. But America needs her where she is, since a president’s conscience should not be located solely within him, but also within the person closest to him or her.
Memorial Day in the future, when America has thrown off the yoke of prevarication, apathy, and self-absorption that presently throttles its spirit, will be a day commemorating the remembered waste and sorrow of war.
As it is, those that have died in our wars, and as a result of our invasions since World War II (the last supposedly “good war”) are forgotten in the kickoff to summer, obscured by the self-indulgent smoke of barbeques.
Courage is also required of commentators, who should know better than to echo the sickly sentimental refrain about the selflessness of Americans fighting in Iraq. They should know better than to accept a false choice. We neither need to revile, nor revere the soldiers who volunteered to execute an utterly immoral and wrongheaded war.
Indeed, we dishonor them by making them paper heroes. They deserve compassion, or at least pity; and most all, they deserve to be heard. Then perhaps this country, without the easy demarcation between its government and the people, will at last begin to learn.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.