As I begin writing this I am watching Bush lay the Memorial Day wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington. Rumsfeld is there with him. I’m incensed. I take Memorial Day very seriously.
As a child I always accompanied my mother as she went to the cemetary on this day. We would take flowers and care for the graves of all our relatives who were buried there. At each grave I would learn the story of the life of that ancestor. There is a lump in my throat as I think that no one back in that rural area I call home will move the flags stuck in the ground in a clump at the edge of the cemetery to the graves of the war dead. Today no one will pay respects at the grave of my Uncle Carl who fought in WWII, joining the Army Air Corps even though he was in his 40s when we joined the fighting of WWII. He was wounded, lost the hearing in one ear, but survived to eventually retire from NASA where he worked on optical technology that went to the moon in Apollo missions.
My brother, a Marine serving in Vietnam, caught the brunt of a morter round explosion under his flack jacket in the battle of Khe Sahn. He was bent over lifting a wounded buddy into a medevac helicopter when shrapnel sliced through him. He probably lived only because they pulled him into the chopper and could begin life-saving care immediately.
Several branches of my family came from Anabaptist, or Brethren, communities and as such were pacifist. I was not raised in this faith, but I was raised to believe in the principles that informed this faith. While I may not believe that war is ever the answer, neither do I disrespect those brave soldiers who were and are ready to give their lives for principles in which they believe. There are principles for which I would give my life. And I’m an imperfect pacifist, if my life or the life of any one I love were directly threatened I would probably fight and kill.
I am disgusted by the war criminals Bush and Rumsfeld who sully the honor and memory of women and men who were willing to fight and die for liberty. Bush went AWOL. He’s never faced danger. He comes from people who fancy themselves aristocrats when they are nothing more than corporate oligarchs. Rumsfeld wanted to create a machine-driven killing corps to assure himself a place in history as the implimentor of a kind of warfare conceived by the Nazis. This melaglomania, unchecked by an administration for which war was an abstraction, created wars and killed well over 100,000 thousand people for financial gain, sent in far fewer troops than were needed to accomplish the ill-conceived and largely strategically unplanned war.
These men are not fit to tread on the hallowed ground of Arlington. I am offended, saddened, and hurt not only by the actions of this corrupt cabal, who speak of volunteer forces but enforce a stop loss program that uses up our troops humanity on mandatory third tours of duty in Iraq. I am also disappointed by the success these men have had in pulling the wool over the eyes of the American people. I sometimes feel that patriotism has been irreconcilably tainted by this administration’s abuse of the term and the people who identify with the now tarnished term. I have begun calling myself a matriot — loving of my place of origin but tempered with a mother’s vision and wisdom. Men could be matriots too. It makes as much sense as women being called patriotic.
On this Memorial Day 2006 I am honoring all the dead of our nation’s wars rather than barbecuing and celebrating the de facto arrival of summer. I am also honoring those women who are the core of the peace movement this time around, those women who risk imprisonment, physical harm, the loss of all private communication, firing from their jobs, separation from or loss of families and a normal life to keep the truth about this oil war and the criminals who create and fuel it in the public consciousness. So many people and the media, traditional channels of information, have fallen into a silent chasm of the oppressed. Thank you women from Gold Star Families for Peace, thank you Grannies, thank you WILPF, thank you CODEPINK, thank you Women Say NO to War, thank you Women Say Enough… thank you women who rise from that bleak fear-filled place to wage peace and speak truth.
This Memorial Day let us honor the war dead and those who work for peace so that no more war memorials need ever be made.