Honor the Fallen Not the Wars
On Memorial Day we remember those who died serving in the military. But remembering their sacrifice should also remind us of the futility and costs of war. We should mourn the fallen without glorifying and promoting war.
Too often in eulogizing veterans we unintentionally promote war. The story line is that we owe our freedom to the sacrifices of military veterans in just wars. This is not true, but saying so is unpatriotic.
It is not true that all our wars have been necessary, just, or in defense of freedom. Many have been illegal. Most have been about protecting commercial interests, expanding territory, or opposing other ideologies and economic systems. To the degree we have “freedom” in this country it is the result of political struggles not military action. Historically, all efforts to give meaning and substance to the ideals expressed in the Bill of Rights have been the work of political and social activists.
Another truth is the veneration of veterans is mostly empty rhetoric. We really don’t care about veterans. When Johnny comes marching home he, or she, is not guaranteed a job, medical care, or a place to live. We do have veterans’ benefits, but often the veteran doesn’t qualify or has to fight to get them. The examples of Agent Orange, the Gulf War Syndrome, or the suicide rate of today’s returning soldiers come to mind. If we really cared about veterans, ALL returning troops would be automatically screened for PTSD. There would be no VA waiting lists. There would be no homeless or jobless veterans.
If we really cared about “supporting the troops” we would not get them into unnecessary, no win situations like Vietnam or Iraq. Given the nature of most of our military actions, and the way we actually treat veterans, it is more accurate to say that service personnel have been sacrificed BY their country, rather than FOR their country.
But the emphasis on veterans as heroes serves a purpose. It blinds us to the real causes of war. It helps promote the next war. It justifies the war industry and helps maintain recruiting. It is all part of maintaining the power and control of the commercial interests that actually rule this country.
We have a culture of violence, war, and militarism which does not serve us well. The increasing militarization of our police, our borders, and foreign policy does not make us safer. The huge amount of our resources dedicated to endless war is not in our best interests politically, socially, or economically.
This Memorial Day think outside the propaganda box. Honor the fallen but work for peace.