It's Memorial Day weekend again in the New South. It's nice to know they've finally accepted a holiday they once loathed. Of course it was Decoration Day until 1967 and after I was grown and had a family. It was as you know, about decorating the graves of Union Soldiers and after the next horror of the Great War, the graves of the 117,465 American dead: a day of solemn reflection.
But by 1967, the year before they changed it to Memorial Day to make it more compatible with our imperialism at the height of the senseless horror in Vietnam, it was about Dad's cremated Hamburgers and Indy; parades and patriotic hoo-ha, but perhaps it's because I now live in the South, it's taken on a new tone. Perhaps too, it's because I live in an area flooded with retired military folks filled with their own importance and those employed by the notorious Military- Industrial Complex -- but my in-box is once again flooded with glorious stories about our glorious military and the glorious things they do. A good part of them are hoaxes and of course there are no mentions of our heroes of My Ly 4 or Abu Ghraib or of the recent glorious heroes who accidentally slaughtered 30 or so civilians using robot planes in air conditioned comfort from halfway around the world.
No, what I get are bogus stories about Marines rescuing babies on 9/11/01 and how it is the Veterans" we owe our freedom of religion, press, speech and the rest of the rights we've had abridged because of the martial spirit of the times -- not the constitution, the courts or the Government of the United States.
Have we forgotten that the biggest enemy of freedom on this continent was the American South? Was anything we can call our own freedom at risk in most of our wars? Andrew Jackson's slaughter and deportation of the Seminoles? the use of Federal troops in slave raids into Florida? The Mexican War? The Spanish American War? The war against Philippine independence? What kind of threat to our freedom of speech necessitated suppressing free elections in Vietnam or the killing of two million civilians? What threat to our freedom of Religion was posed by Iraq? What threat were flower carrying kids in Ohio that they needed to be shot in the back by American troops? Were the troops driving armored vehicles down Chicago's State Street in 1968 there to support our right to assembly or to shut us up?
It' s not that I have any disrespect for veterans, living or dead, but our Constitution wasn't written by the Generals, no foreign power is any threat to it and that we still pay any attention to the Bill of Rights owes as much to the "activist" courts and the ACLU as to anything else. It owes nothing whatever to the Tea Bag flag wavers who hate government power unless it's carrying guns. It owes nothing to Macho flag wavers from John Wayne to Bomb-bomb McCain.
Memorial day has become an encomium not to dead soldiers; an expression not of profound grief. It's not a day when we mourn our losses or of any remembrance of the horror of war and militarism, but to celebrate living veterans, sing praise to the Armed forces and to the glory of war itself. It's a day we now use to decorate ourselves, congratulate ourselves on our military prowess and this in a country that's been fighting all my life but hasn't been on the winning side of a war since 1945. It's a day too often used to obscure the real threats to freedom with red white and blue bunting and it's good to remember that the same folks crowing about military defense of freedom are quite happy to require anyone with tan skin to carry proof of citizenship at all times, quite happy to give the local police the power of Federal Marshals and to forget all about warrants and probable cause. What army is going to protect us against our own smug racism, bigotry and expansionism?