Put Memorial Day 2013 in the books! Did you enjoy it? I did. I spent time with my family, grilled chicken hot dogs, and played with my little baby niece. Oh, and I spent a lot of time on twitter, and facebook. “Who are you?” “Why do I care?” I heard you say that just now. I’m just a guy who has made some observations about American culture, Memorial Day, and the internet. You’ve probably made these observations too. Let’s talk about them.
The internet has transformed how we, Americans, show our appreciation for the military. Gone are the days of the obligatory/ubiquitous yellow ribbon-adorned tree. The “antiwar” (anti-Bush war) bumper stickers have all but faded physically, and certainly morally, into oblivion. In 2013, all it takes to convince your circle of peers that you’re a patriotic, “democracy”-loving American is a social media status update..one day of the year. The KONY-2012 treatment. Well, I’m not buyin’ it.
Before you flip out: The purpose of this blog isn’t to challenge whether or not you love America. I would never challenge your love or admiration for a fallen friend or family member. I in no way want to challenge the mental/physical/emotional/spiritual sacrifice of the armed service members who have found themselves in the line of fire (some by no choice of their own). Finally, though I aim to challenge/change this aspect of America (humanity), I do not desire (in this blog) to challenge your conception of the the morality/justification of the use of force(at least not directly), whether in a Constitutional Republic, or a step beyond. Basically, I don’t intend to look down from on high, and challenge everything you hold dear. What I’m interested in is making a few observations, looking at a few facts, and asking a few questions.
So, like I said earlier, I spent a nice chunk of Memorial Day 2013 on the internet. I saw some familiar faces in the form of patriotic platitudes. Standard stuff: “Love it or leave it,” “these colors don’t run,” “‘Merica.” The classics. I saw some Left v Right squabbles about which side actually, genuinely loves, and, conversely, hates America/the troops. I saw people repeating things that they’ve heard somewhere about some conflict in some country they can’t spell, or identify on a map. In sum, I saw the internet manifestation of what some in Washington are currently proposing, and which all political power rests upon: “Battlefield Earth” underscored by a “divide and conquer” policy.
A few examples:
Young girls peppering the internet with this snarky bromide:
Or.. this.. A guy from NewsBusters exposing a “liberal” celebs “disdain” for Memorial Day because she DARED to tweet about using the bathroom at Starbucks..
Or.. Michelle Malkin et al. (The “Twitchy” Team) lambasting an attention-seeking blogger/journalist for ineloquently insinuating that the troops are only concerned with killing things, and are “scumbags.”
Ok, so.. What is Memorial Day? The hostility evident in the above examples should be an indication that Americans might have a difficult time coming up with a consensus answer. I contend that, regardless of the justification for their involvement or sacrifice, Memorial Day is about honoring members of our Armed Services..particularly those who have died. Can we agree on that? What I’ve observed is that the holiday has become a partisan free-for-all where Republicans and Democrats relish an opportunity to question notions of “patriotism,” and “support” for our troops. I’ve also observed a bizarre disconnect from these aforementioned troops, from both political camps. Herein lies the meat.
Assuming we all agreed that Memorial Day is a day for honoring the dead, perhaps we can all agree that dying in war is not a desirable outcome. Perhaps I’m wrong. The internet, indeed social media, had provided me with a crystal-clear window to observe a strange phenomenon: glorifying war. Yeah, it’s been around for thousands of years, but the internet has put the voice of so many of our fellow Americans into our collective face. That voice largely glorifies making “the ultimate sacrifice” in war, seemingly without question. As President Obama has continued, and in fact escalated, our overseas military involvement the Left as essentially joined the Right in its “pedestaling” of dying in war for the United States of America. Gone are the tens of thousands of antiwar protesters who lined the streets of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Seattle, Washington D.C. … In its stead? Facebook status updates about “trusting President Obama” who’s merely “cleaning up the foreign policy mess GWB left him” (nevermind the fact we’re bombing MORE countries than under President Bush). While the Left’s “glorifying” may be more a crime of omission, the Right is still full-fledged “you’re either with us, or with the terrorists.” (Note: I have ZERO interest in determining if one is worse than the other.. and indeed..cannot.) My statement concerning the tenacity/persistence of the all-war-all-the-time Right is based on social media observations about how Obama’s “crippling” (seriously..disgustingly brutal) sanctions on Iran aren’t enough to contain this country which hasn’t attacked another country in hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of years. Also, widespread support for intervention in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. The Right (including the hijacked Tea Party) also don’t seem to be making much noise about our bombing Somalia, or Pakistan. So, the Right adds “#SOT” (support our troops) to their twitter bio’s, and soldier on into the twitter abyss where they’re all too eager to confront the “other team.” It’s my observation that, as pertains to American foreign policy, the two teams, Republicans and Democrats, differ only in degrees. Shades of gray.
If you’d like to challenge/confirm my observations, I implore you to search twitter using hashtag “#TCOT” and ask a number of tweeters foreign policy questions regarding Iran or Afghanistan..or anything you wish! Search hashtag “#p2” or “#dems” and ask tweeters about how our current foreign policy differs from the foreign policy under the George W. Bush Administration. For further confirmation, search youtube for the Obama v Romney Presidential debate where they “debated” foreign policy.
I would imagine that, if confronted directly, each and every American would agree that the choice between a soldier dying in war, and living peacefully at home in America, is no choice at all! This begs the question..WHY? Why aren’t we doing everything in our power to keep our troops home, and alive? Before you scoff at my statement, it’s necessary to introduce a hard, grotesque fact into this assessment:
In 2012, an active-duty service member took his/her own life every 17 hours. This staggering number of deaths by suicide actually outpaced the number of Americans lost in combat zones. So far, 2013 has proved to be much the same, with an active-duty service member choosing suicide every 18 hours. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/23/18447439-one-every-18-hours-military-suicide-rate-still-high-despite-hard-fight-to-stem-deaths?lite
A few questions:
Why is there an epidemic of suicide among our active-duty military, and returning veterans?
Why are a majority of Americans comfortable with punishing a military whistleblower who made clear the fact that we’re not getting the full story of our overseas military intervention?
Why are we fighting a war in Afghanistan?
Why are we drone bombing (have bombed) Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen? Does it make us more safe, or less safe? Do you know how many innocent civilians are being killed in these strikes? Do you know how they’re being used as a recruiting tool by terrorists?
Why hasn’t the revelation that United States participation in the Iraq War was based on erroneous information in any way slowed our march to a preemptive war against Iran?
If you could have a fallen friend or family member return to you to enjoy a peaceful, happy life in America on the condition that you know exactly why they must fight, and die.. would you make the effort?
I contend that this is our choice. This is the essence of Memorial Day, and it’s what is being missed when we allow ourselves to be divided and conquered by those who gain from it. Memorial Day is supposed to be a time when the memory of those who’ve been lost is honored. We’d prefer to not have to mourn the loss of a loved one killed in military service, and naturally would seek ways to prevent this loss from occurring again in the future. That’s exactly where our energy should be focused during any time of war. HOW DO WE END THIS? That should, and must, be our main concern. The fact that the questions I posed earlier must be asked, and prove difficult to answer, points to the fact that we as Americans are failing to honor the spirit of Memorial Day.
We as Americans, as humans, must strive to know WHY a service member would prefer to end his/her own life as opposed to living with the memories of what they’ve experienced in war. We must have knowledge of WHY we’re asking our military to fight, and, if necessary, “make the ultimate sacrifice,” before we update our Facebook status about supporting the troops. We must understand how our military is operating, and if its actions are wise, or serve to make our wars perpetual, and enemies endless. If our military is slow to divulge factual information about our military involvement, we should WELCOME factual revelations from brave soldiers willing to show us the truth. We should learn from the lessons of our past wars. We should be hesitant to trust government proclamations about the danger we face around the world without thorough independent validation. We shouldn’t START war to prevent war.
Memorial Day has tasked us with a great responsibility. If we’re to honor the “sacrifice” past Americans have made, it’s essential to understand why their sacrifice was made. It’s unfortunate that this sometimes requires us to go beyond the explanation given by those willing making the sacrifice, though that in no way makes their motivation or sacrifice less valid. We should not accept that war is a necessary, inevitable aspect of life. Yellow ribbons, and Facebook posts are legitimate human expressions of support for the troops, but when the stakes are life or death, TRUE support means bringing our troops out of harms way, as fast as humanly possible. Resist the urge to engage in partisan pissing-matches about who has the bigger yellow ribbon. War is not a partisan matter.. it’s a human matter. If you endeavor to support our troops..support them in the only way that matters.. Bring them home.