Here we are celebrating another three day weekend culminating with Memorial Day, which used to be the last day in May, but is now the final Monday in that month. The will be much barbecuing of flesh both animal and, if the overcast breaks here in California, human as we indulge in our seasonal flirtation with skin cancer.
Over the next 72 hours the various cable and network channels will manage to air every single film to ever celebrate the blood orgy of warfare in the course of the last seventy years. The prevailing theme seems to be that we somehow support our living troops by glorifying the dead ones. Meanwhile, Veteran's Day, the holiday honoring living veterans, is all but forgotten. It was not always so.
Memorial Day used to be Decoration Day, a day for healing a nation rent by the Civil War on which survivors would decorate the graves of the fallen on both sides. This practice was soon extended to all graves . It was a day to honor all of the dead. My grandmother still called it that and on May 31 we would solemnly visit the cemetery and place flowers on the graves of her husband and of my mother. Veteran's Day was also known as Armistice Day. It honored the men who had served and the ending of a terrible war. The holiday was established when a million or so angry vets marched on Washington after being screwed out of their benefits.
I am all for properly honoring those who died in the service of the country. I just think it would be nice if we treated them decently while they were still breathing. A soldier is as likely to commit suicide as to be killed by the enemy. A female soldier stands a one in three chance of being raped by another soldier. They are just beginning to learn how many men are raped on base. One in seven soldiers in Afghanistan are on psychiatric medication. They are told to "suck it up" and soldier on after being stop-lossed for the third or fourth or fifth tour.
We can, and ought to, do better.
We must honor while we can
The vertical man
Though we value none
But the horizontal one.
War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today. -- John F. Kennedy
Be seeing you.