On May 26, we, in the US, will be remembering all the fallen men and women who died in the military service of this nation. I will especially remember all those military individuals who died in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. I do so for two reasons: The three wars occurred during my adult lifetime, which makes them much more personal and poignant; the three were wars of choice, especially Iraq! I will also remember the service men and women who have been maimed, traumatized, incapacitated for life and, some, rendered homeless roaming this shameful nation’s streets and alleys. I will also be distressed while thinking of all those veterans committing suicide – 22 daily are the latest figures! We have not yet finished tallying all the numbers from our Iraq and Afghanistan adventures. We are still there, after all, incurring and causing casualties in these two countries as well as in Pakistan, Yemen and . . . and . . . all those numerous known and unknown places where we dispatch our military to combat and to create more hate and vengeful behavior!
As I gloomily ponder on all those wars and this nation’s casualties, I will also think of all the innocent civilian casualties that our wars have left in their wake. Dead and maimed, traumatized men, women and little children, homeless and displaced victims! Why, remains the unanswered question! Why? To what noble end have we done that; for what incredible reason? Perhaps I, and millions of people in the US and around the world, am simply plain dim-witted for not knowing the answer to this perplexing question!?! Or, maybe, our political leaders have never outgrown their childhoods and have been merely playing the game of “cops and robbers” on the world’s political stage? The more I listen to them these days, the more I think how true that is and how immature and incompetent they sound! How opportunistic and egoistic they are! The lies and hypocrisy they spew! They, and the denizens of Davos, that Swiss Mecca of the super rich, are so insulated in their gated communities that I don’t think most of them see what we ordinary citizens see; nor do they feel what we feel. Does having that much wealth and power render fellow humans so heartless, so shameless, such cold-blooded conspirators scheming on where to wage the next war; how to screw some more ordinary citizens in order to earn more wealth; how to keep “the natives busy” (that’s us, ordinary humans) with mundane issues and inane theatrics as they go about amassing more and more and even more yet?
Neither I, nor many people I know, envy Anyone their wealth, no, not at all. After all, I know that I am not as brilliant as Steve Jobs was and I fully believe, therefore, that he absolutely deserves to have more wealth than me. Let’s face it, those of us who were a bit taken in the fifties and sixties with the idea that communism was a leveling field found out pretty quickly what a fantasy that was. I have no idea which political system will function fairly, democratically and justly in our world. I just know that our present systems aren’t functioning, and that the Pharaohs of the existing neo-colonialism, aka capitalism, are proving to us every single day here, at home, and all over the world that they simply aren’t. For centuries Politics and Religion have been sleeping in the same bed. For the past few decades it seems to have become Politics, Religion and Corporations; a triumvirate of the father, the son and the holy ghost of this neo-colonialism. Pretty Evil! It is the same with power. For, I do not envy GM’s (General Motors) CEO, for instance, a woman hired to clean up the criminal negligence of her company. GM is not the first corporation, or the last one, to indulge in criminal behavior. Most go unpunished; unaccountable. Frankly, I do not have the stomach to wield any CEO’s ruthless power. I can barely exercise my power these days over our cat, thank you much!
For me, it is not a question of wealth or power, but of common decency and a sense of responsibility towards each other. How can we continue to indulge in this violence? What will it take to make us end it? When will we really become civilized and stop merely pretending that we are?!
So on this, as on every Memorial Day, and after the eloquent speeches are orated, the wreaths laid, the candles lit, the orchestras with their oboes and tubas packed away, the prayers rendered and then . . . oh, and then . . . everyone will go shopping, watch the game, and then fire up the grills for another barbeque feast as the war veterans wonder why the Department of Veterans Affairs can’t find their files and speed up their pleas for backlogged claims, why Medicare ran out of payments for their physical therapy, why their buddy is sleeping under the Washington Bridge and their other buddy committed suicide! They will gaze in anguish at the graves that were honored this morning adorned with the little flags and flowers and wonder for whom and for what their buddies died? Was it for Freedom; for Democracy; for bloody resources; to defend the most powerful nation on earth from a bunch of illiterate and jobless hoodlums who now feel relevant because they can shoot a gun and terrorize others? Or was it that they were simply ordered to go to war and found that they were only fighting to defend their brothers in arms, to avenge the heroic death of their fellow soldiers rather than laying down their life for the lies and hypocrisy of their stated mission; the ineptness and the arrogance of the leaders who sent them there? Some of those who returned are still haunted by the terror and destruction that they caused and many now understand that the enemy too, like them, was fighting to defend his brothers in arms and to avenge the deaths of his countrymen, women and children. They have narrowed it down to the tit-for-tat that war ends up becoming. They can see the futility of it all and sink yet deeper into their tormented dreams! They see themselves and their buddies, the Collateral Damage of our political and corporate interests, suffering, as they see another day of empty speeches and hollow acclamations pass on, and look across the landscape at the Presidents, politicians, leaders, media lap-dogs and CEOs that sent them to war firing up their grills and chuckling amongst themselves while gazing at their extravagant estates and hefty bank accounts padded with the blood of their fellow citizens! Avarice never ceases to astound me!
May the dead rest in peace on this Memorial Day.
I wish the surviving combatants all the best in the world for each of them and for their families. May they have the strength and fortitude to live the rest of their lives painlessly, with dignity and as peacefully as they can.
And may every leader and politician – and anyone who ever earned blood money from the sacrifices of these young men and women as they bravely fought unwarranted wars – never have a day of peace, or a night free of ghastly nightmares!