Americans may truly be the only nation of people who can find it somehow right and proper to combine a solemn honoring of our war dead day, with picnics, the beach, camping and barbecue.
I don’t know how we do it, but we do. And we don’t seem to see anything odd about it.
Now, before you get your knickers in a twist or whatever other bodily wear the image brings up for you personally, I’m not here to wag the finger. No such thing at all. I was happily munching on a brat-dog yesterday and shoveling down my world famous potato salad. (I can say world famous because I published the recipe a while back–and it is undeniable that I have an “international” following of sorts. “Famous” might be quibbled with, but it’s my blog, so you know what that means.)
But the thought did wander through the fog of my brain after having consumed such fare, that well, it was all a bit strange after all. We are not supposed to be celebrating at all, rather we are to be properly solemn. I’ve used that word three times now, so you know it figures prominently here.
We are supposed to be “reflective” and meditative aren’t we? This is called MEMORIAL day after all. We have a lot of memorials to remember doncha think? I mean, starting with the Revolutionary war, various internecine “wars” against Native Americans, such that we nearly wiped out whole tribes. They there is the French and Indian, (the Indians again), the war of 1812, the parties of who escape me now. (So many it’s hard to remember all of them.) San Juan Hill had us in Cuba or some place, and we fought Mexicans over Texas and probably Arizona and New Mexico and California some.
Then there are the biggies, the Civil War when we did our best to annihilate each other, the two World Wars, one of which was wrongly claimed to be the “war to end all wars,” then Korea, Vietnam, a couple of Gulfs, Eastern Europe over those “not real wars but just police actions”. There are two going on now, and plenty dead and maimed from those. There are undoubtedly one’s we don’t know about, sneaky CIA type operations where people die and we never know. They are war dead too I guess.
My point is not to make judgments about all these, although most of you might assume correctly that I’m pretty much agin’ such things. My point is to well, point out, that we have a lot of dead to reflect upon. A lot of lives lost, millions, in causes deemed righteous and not so much. A lot of lives ruined that aren’t all that susceptible to figures and grafts and totals.
I’d say there is more than enough for a body to spend the day in quiet reflection on; war, and how we get in them, and more importantly how we can avoid them. To say nothing of those poor folks who are dealing with it firsthand, visiting graves still warm from shovels of dirt not yet packed down, embracing boxes filled with dreams now dead.
We have somehow found it right and good to turn this day into the “kick-off to summer” and parades where we wave flags and look about us in self-satisfied wonder at all America has wrought. Kids running and ice cream, and baseball, and pretty teen girls flirting with bare chested boys trying to look manly. A lot of aging men, and increasing more and more women, dress in semi-formal military fare, and sport caps identifying them as VFW, and their particular part in the ongoing mayhem that has been with us since our birth as a nation.
We dutifully watch the TV during the day, or later in the evening, and see the solemn (now four times) placing of wreaths at various monuments, watching the documentation of this going on here and there throughout the country. We feel vaguely embarrassed or guilty that we don’t attend those events, but after all, we have no war dead to mourn ourselves. And it is warm and sunny, and there is a chance to wear shorts and wiggle our toes in the sand and laugh because we have the day off.
I found it ironic that the television schedule during the weekend was filled with old war movies, and war footage. Yes, a perfect legacy of war is to watch pretend war or film of real war. Fitting to remember the dead that way. Glorious, in fact. I’m sure that’s the way they felt about it, before. . . . before they were dead before they hit the ground. How much they were willing to “give that last measure.” Yeah, sure they were.
Nobody is talking of peace. I can’t figure out why. Haven’t we seen a belly full of death and destruction yet? Are we still in love with John Wayne, and “lace ’em up tight boys.” Are we still in Rambo mode?