beautiful lies

Memorial Day is one of several holidays for which I find a growing antipathy as the years go by (though it should be said I am always happy to have a reason to take a day off.) It isn't that I don't think we ought to take a moment to reflect on sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed services (more on this in a moment), but rather that it seems to me the preferred mode of observance is to complain about how everyone else isn't observing it properly.

(See also: Martin Luther King Day, and in certain circles, Christmas.)

Perhaps I would be more inclined to spend time memorializing our fallen soldiers if I didn't think that so many of them died doing nothing whatsoever for the cause of "my freedom." The soldiers of the American Revolution did that, certainly. The Civil War, arguably. It is difficult to imagine the world in which America did not enter WWII as one in which any of us would want to live, though it is equally difficult to exclude the possibility that WWII might have never happened were it not for the outcome of its utterly pointless predecessor a few decades earlier.

I'll even grant the necessity of a military response following 9/11. At least to the extent that the public narrative of that attack is true*, I think the ultimatum made to the Taliban and its consequences for not having been met were entirely justified.

But I'm damned if I know what we're supposed to be doing there, now.

No one wants to say to the spouses, parents, children, siblings, and friends of the dead that they died for nothing. Or worse still, that they died for a cynical, political purpose, or in the service of a stubborn and foolish ideal about the world that flies in the face of all available evidence.

And yet...

Are the dead really honored by beautiful lies? When we seek comfort in telling ourselves that there is a greater purpose served by the pointless and avoidable carnage to which we routinely subject the youth of this country, are we really doing them any favors? Or are we just making it possible for the same mistakes to be repeated, generation after generation?

I don't know. Really, I don't.

*No, I'm not a "truther", I'm just referring specifically to involvement of terrorists working from a base in Afghanistan with the support of the Taliban government...and I only feel the need to qualify this because of all the other things we were told in that decade that turned out to be, generously, "mistaken".


RW said...

I'd say we're "making it possible for the same mistakes to be repeated, generation after generation." It seems to be in the DNA.

Dave said...

"It is clear that war is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means" -Clausewitz

Gino said...

in the not that distant past, men were drafted to serve the interests of policy.
i dont see that happening again in this nation, as this nation stands.

but, still...
even those who volunteer do so knowing that they dont pick the wars.

my nieghbor is a 21yr USMC (not yet retired). like he says to those who oppose his current service in this current war...
we will be there to fight the war that you *will* approve of as well. (darfur?)

you once wrote about politics, regarding that attack on the IRS office. you dont blame the agent who got snuffed as if he deserved it.
honoring our military fallen is much the same argument.
and i'm one who likely disagrees with more of our wars than you. i wont take anything from the soldier. his service, to me, is as if in a vaccuum.

we need the warrior class, and their sacrifices.
we also need better politics.

Brian said...

I'm not against honoring the dead *at all*; I just resent that the sentiment is used as a bludgeon to silence criticism of policy. Which strikes me as, among other things, profoundly disrespectful to the dead.

To put it another way, many (most) people would say that it is inappropriate to voice dissent over what the military is being used for during the time set aside to memorialize fallen soldiers. I would not only say that this isn't the case, but in fact that is exactly the time to do so.

Or to put it another another way--and this is really the question I want to raise with the post--when does respect for the fallen get twisted into complicity in sending them off to their death for no damn good reason?

Gino said...

good question.
there comes a point where opposition to the mission can become opposition to the soldiers.

this cant be allowed to happen. the distinction needs to be made.
i would suggest a good point of reference would be gloating at a heavy death month... and work it back from there.

(i'm not accusing anybody in particular of this, but i do remember seeing a measure of it when iraq was ging 'poorly' while my brother was over there dodging mortar fire.)

Brian said...

Yeah, I hear you. I think that (gloating at deaths, etc.) is pretty rare, but not inconceivable. Not to mention monstrous.

Gino said...

it wasnt all that rare. i remember media coverage (the antibush/anti war folks) at the time who were gleeful, almost celebratory in their reporting.

their words spoke of tragedy, but the gleam in their eyes was 'see? bushitler got these killed... we win policy points!!'

they didnt care about the deaths, only the numbers adding up to hang on bush and teach the usa a lesson.