Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thoughts and reflections of Memorial Day 2010

During my formative years, those prided influential years immediately following a victorious World War II, it seemed the essentiality of nationalism, patriotism, and militarism gradually, subtly, and subliminally was encultured in every American. That enculturation instilled in me that I should support “my country right or wrong,” where nationalism and patriotism meant blind devotion to the United States of America, and a notion that if we didn’t have a military we wouldn’t have a country! It was a time when every Memorial Day was a major celebration; a time of unquestionable Christian devotion; a time when every young man was expected to serve in the Armed Forces; a time when every school day began with a prayer and a pledge of allegiance to the flag; a time when I thought my government would never be deceitful and to be a politician was an honorable profession.

It was also a time when Memorial Day, under the leadership of Everett Reed, meant a long parade to every cemetery where the flag was placed at the gravesite of every veteran on that day, not beforehand, and where at every cemetery echo taps were played. It was a day, as today, of war hero idolatry enhanced by legends and tales of war.

Memorial Day is a day we set-aside to honor those who gave their all for America; conversely, it is also a day when we glorify war, and a day we celebrate our nationalism, patriotism, and militarism via exploitation of our war heroes.

We should not forget on Memorial Day that many others did not give their lives, but they did give all of their futures: Men and Women wounded, disfigured/disabled mentally/physically, for the rest of their lives, some with very horrifyingly invisible wounds.

We should also not forget that it was a day three years ago, on May 19, 2007, when one of Pembroke’s sons, Matthew Bean, gave all he had to give during a door-to-door search for three captured U.S. soldiers in the Sunni Triangle region of Iraq, nor should we forget Brian McPhillips, who grew up in Pembroke and gave his all during a firefight in central Iraq on April 4, 2003.

Matthew and Brian gave all they had with nobility of purpose, as they understood it to be, and sacrificed their lives for it. Mathew Bean and Brian McPhillips are the quintessence of the Americans we honor on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day should also be a reminder for every American to speak out against a government and others who would hoodwink Americans, particularly our young people, into thinking that a Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan serves some nobility of purpose, as when I was a young man and unfortunately continues to this day, never again.

Iraq is not worth the life of Matthew Bean or Brian McPhillips. We should not just perceive Matthew or Brian as young men who so happened to have lost their lives -- after all lives are lost in war -- without profoundly understanding what their families and we have lost in our community and country as a result of their deaths. Think of the lost contribution that Matthew, Brian, other fallen veterans, and those who have suffered unrecoverable wounds, could have made to make this a better country; whatever the outcome in Iraq or Afghanistan it will not make us a better country. It is not what has been, but what could have been if only America had chosen a different course of action of which Matthew’s grave and Brian’s memorial are symbolic reminders, that is the reality of Memorial Day.

So, let’s pray that future Memorial Days will be in honoring fallen Americans from our very distant past, but not of those in our time.