Memorial Day is really the same sort of holiday as Thanksgiving when you think about it. We (supposedly) give thanks for those who risked their lives in the quest for freedom. But few people go out to the Memorial Day parades (unlike the Thanksgiving Day Parades) where it would be grossly inappropriate to have huge balloons of Sponge Bob and the Rugrats. But the Thanksgiving Day parade represents little of what actually took place when the pilgrims landed here. History has long ignored that the very tyranny the pilgrims were fleeing they came to North America and inflicted horrible things on the native Indian population. In essence, we give thanks on Thanksgiving for what the pilgrims were willing to do in order for us to get out of England and set up our own hateful tyranny, at least from the Indians' point of view.
When I think of Memorial Day I also recall that World War II had its own ironies, again, passed over in the history books I read growing up. The U.S. made it impossible for Japan to enjoy free trade and when the U.S. ignored Japan's entreaties, the Japanese dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor. We ignored Hitler's murderous march through Europe until WE were threatened and then acted, all too late. Millions of Jews and others had been murdered by that time. We didn't think the murder millions and millions of people was a threat to us.
Now Americans face the reality that our men and women are a part of an invasion and occupation of a country. Unlike the Vietnam years when so many Americans turned their backs on the returning vets from that conflict, Americans are careful to point out they object to the war but support the troops who are sent into combat.
But they choose to join the armed services knowing there is chance to go into combat, yes? Or is the armed service a roll of the dice where you are likely to get through your service without seeing combat and get an education?
Whatever the reason, it makes my stomach turn when I see televised ceremonies for a returned vet in his or her coffin. They wound up in the service for their own reasons and followed the course whether or not they agreed with the politics of the war in Iraq.
I've been battling some medical issues lately and when I feel particularly unwell all I need to do is look at the television set and see the aftermath of those young men and women whose lives were cut short. They deserve some tribute.