So. Memorial Day 2012, the day of this year we honor the brave men and women who have died in the service of our country, is in its last hour. This has always been a confusing holiday for me because it took me until I was a semi-adult man—facing the military draft an possible deportment to Viet Nam—that I fully grasped what it is that Memorial Day memorializes.
The root cause for my confusions was the simple fact that we had Memorial Day, July 4th and Veterans Day where each was, at least in my eyes, a military holiday. Marching bands played all the same J.P. Sousa marches and service anthems at the parades, veterans would wear their old uniforms, and silly-assed politicians would make mostly the same speech at each holidays’ events.
Now, before I go on I need to once more credit Squatlo for planting the seeds of irrelevance that connected the following divergent concepts. He printed a story about a congressman from Arizona who has received repeated endorsements from a faux Nazi organization that he repeatedly refused to comment on those endorsements. He wouldn’t say he didn’t accept Nazi support, wouldn’t say he disagrees with their principals or even acknowledge that he had their support. He simply repeated the same candidate’s talking point over and over. Like a Chatty Kathy doll with but one phrase on call to it’s pull string, this man sounds stupid. And mean.
His refusal to acknowledge negative personal issues with the re-puking of talking point vomit is becoming a trend with the far-right lunatic fringe. Go over to Squatties place and check out the videos of the Arizona and Colorado pols I’m talking about. Be sure to file your nails first—you don’t want to scar your scalp from the ensuing head scratching.
Like I was saying, it took me awhile to be able to distinguish between the three military holidays because politician’s speeches were identical at each holiday’s events. My daddy and granddaddy were each veterans of one the world’s two big wars and we attended every veteran’s holiday event while they were alive. Of all those speeches only one ever stuck in my head. I wish I could remember the man’s name but I can’t. He was a WWII veteran who had fought in Africa and then through D-Day in France and the Battle of the Bulge. I remember that he was a hero whose uniform was covered with medals. He was fiercely American and as anti war as am I. I guess I can’t remember his name because he lost his election.
I remember his speech was different from all the others. He didn’t boast of American military muscle and make bully pulpit threats at our “enemies”[,] and he didn’t promise an ever-increasing budget for the Pentagon. What he said that stuck with me were his personal reasons for fighting in WWII. He said he fought because:
- His country was attacked by outside forces that wanted to impose their will on America.
- The leaders of those attacking countries were fascists who viscously oppressed any opposing views, used religious-based laws to regulate morals and developed a ruling class populated with a small number of politicians and industrial executives. Hitler and the others murdered their detractors, and brutally so.
- The invading countries’ common citizens—those masses not belonging to the ruling class—were all relegated to be non-union worker bees with fixed wages, and were destined to fuel the wealth of the ruling class and to be the cannon fodder of war.
On the way home from the parade and speeches, I asked Daddy what the man had meant about oppressing opposing views. He told me that the Nazis would go so far as to kill anyone who didn’t follow their rules even if a person couldn’t follow the rules if they wanted to. Jews and homosexuals were killed just for being what they are, and communists and Jew sympathizers were killed for what they believed. He said that German school kids were were immersed in the government’s religious-based propaganda. Schools were required to teach one curriculum, and children were encouraged to participate in “Little Nazi” clubs and organizations. There was no teaching of differing views.
“Free thinkers were considered to be criminals, Mooner,” my father told me. “If you didn’t follow the party line in every phase of your life, you’d be ostracized or killed.”
To conclude his speech, the anti-war hero veteran said this: “What makes America great is our inclusive society, our acceptance—hell, our encouragement—of differing views. Christians and Jews, Democrats and republicans, black and white, hawks and doves—we all have the same, identical opportunity to live freely in America. No one of us can tell the others what to think, what to worship or how to act. The majority can’t oppress the minority on the basis of race or religion or political affiliation. A lone man with a different religious belief can’t be burned at the stake in America.”
The last of this man’s words that rang in my head were: “Hitler and Hirohito and Mussolini were fascists. Those men sought to invade the United States of America and eliminate our freedoms of choice and speech, and then impose their control over our every thought and act. It is only when faced with such invaders that we should ever again go to war.”
As I reflect upon Memorial Day 2012, I think that hero’s words are as powerful today as when I first heard them forty years ago.
Historians will tell you that the Roman Empire didn’t collapse and die from outside invaders. Rome died because its ruling class became so self important and corrupt that its citizens and slaves couldn’t, wouldn’t continue to feed its wanton desires. The men at the top became so greedy and self absorbed that they had no empathy for the common man, the sick or the elderly. They didn’t care about the education of Rome’s masses, only that the privileged got the best education available. They only provided health care to common citizens when they served in the Roman Army. If you had no family to care for you when you got too old to work or too crazy to support yourself, you begged on the street and died a pauper’s death.
Rome was conquered by home-grown invaders, men without empathy to other men with different beliefs or situations or conditions. Rulers who only wanted to impose their will.
I doubt that the WWII anti-war hero veteran ever expected America to be invaded by homegrown fascists. I doubt he could have envisioned an exclusionary America where a strong education system goes severely under funded and begins to fail our children. He didn’t envision our returning vets living homeless in the streets because there aren’t adequate mental health and reentry programs to serve them. I know he didn’t see a future where, on purpose and with educated forethought, we denied quality health care to all Americans and our sick and elderly are facing routine cuts to their life support services.
What brought this hero’s speech to mind yesterday was the speech a Texas congressman made yesterday. He bragged about American veterans and praised their patriotism and thanked them, “From the bottom of my heart,” for their faithful service. He told the rest of us that we need to be grateful to our vets and that we should NEVER forget to show our thanks to our vets for their service to our country.
The congressman from Texas who gave that speech is a tea bag right-winger from the Dallas area. Since his election to the US Congress he has banded with his brethren to vote for every increase in military spending and voted for every reduction to veteran’s benefits to hit the floor of the House. That two-faced motherfucker has the balls to tell veterans how much he appreciates their service while making the decision to put them on the streets.
Look, I’m tired and losing the ability to better-connect the dots on this and I’m going to bed. I’ll stop by saying this one more thing. America is under siege from within, our social fabric is unraveling faster than a $3.00 sweater. Our right-wing christian politicians have grabbed the loose thread, and with their eyes pinched shut to the consequences, they are pulling with all their might.
God bless our veterans, our elderly and infirm. How about we Americans bless them too.