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Memorial Day open thread

OK, the parade down Main Street was nice, I put out the flag, and, OK, World War II. And how could I forget, the #binladen hit, so totally worthy of a great nation. But last I checked, nobody could explain why we're in Afghanistan at all, let alone Libya, and let's not get started on Iraq, so the troops are risking and losing their lives for what, and for who, exactly?

Joe Galloway quotes Media Matters (of all places) in "Friday at the Pentagon"

10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

"A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

"Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden ... yet.

"Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier's chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.

"Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

OK, "the last full measure of devotion". I understand this.

But remind me again, for what?

Read more: #storylink=misearch#ixzz1NqhArRCn

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jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

It was started to recall the deaths of soldiers in the Civil War, which to this day stands as the bloodiest war in United States history. After World War I it was extended to commemorate the dead from all U.S. wars. This distinguishes it from Veterans' Day, which recalls soldiers who survived their wars.

That distinction- remembrance of those who died- is important, I think, because it allows us an opportunity to meditate on the awful destruction war brings. Whether any war's cause is good or ill, its result is always death, both of soldiers and of civilians. War takes life away. In the most basic of moral formulations- life good, death bad- that makes war an evil, whether necessary or no. Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address with an exhortation that those who died might not have died in vain, but in vain or not they still died.

Memorial Day should be a day for anti-war sentiments, as we recall what war has taken from us. We should strengthen our resolve to end all current wars, and to work to prevent new wars from starting. Even if that is an impossible dream, it is worth pursuing.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Last year a group wanted to carry coffins in the Memorial Day observance on the State Capitol grounds to remember the dead. The plans drew severe criticism as an inappropriate anti-war demonstration on the day that should be used to honor the fallen. The plans were cancelled.

It's all right to focus on the cost of life when the cause is good, as most Northerners felt the Civil War to be. The cause was worth the cost. It's problematic when the cause is difficult to defend, as most wars are, and certainly as are our current imperial forays into the Middle East. As Cindy Sheehan asked, "What did my son die for?" When you have trouble answering that question, then it all becomes about waving flags and stirring music and military displays and paeans to bravery and glory. But not about coffins.