I would not want to interfere with your holiday-shopping. Lord knows, our battered economy needs any boost it can get. But I felt I should remind you that another Memorial Day finds the United States at war.
In fact, there have been very few Memorial Days on which the United States was not fighting someone, somewhere in the world. Nor was our track-record any less dismal before the establishment of Memorial Day. Our country has actually had very few days of peace and very few periods of peace that spanned into years. Unfortunately, just about the only time America’s leaders talk about peace is when they toss it into a speech explaining why we are going into or staying in a war.
My original intent for this essay was to show readers the many conflicts in which America has involved itself. But the list is simply too long! Take a look for yourself here. I do not doubt that there are times when it is necessary to take-up arms…but this is ridiculous! Since our rebellion to gain independence from Britain, Americans have fought dozens of peoples, including the native American-Indians, Spain, Honduras, Cuba, each-other, Arikara, Paraguay, Germany, and even something called the Chiefdom of Quallah Battoo. Now we are fighting the Iraqis, Afghans, & Pakistanis in a war that just passed $1,000,000,000 ( 1 trillion ) cost. Soon we may be combating the North Koreans & Iranians. The hippies used to say that fighting to stop war is like fucking to stop sex; and there is a lot of truth to that.
What is it with us and our national military fetish? And I purposely use the word “fetish” to denote an icky type of turn on. Take a look at the orgy of movies, tv shows, songs, parades, magazines, bumper stickers, video games, and other professions of devotional love we have for all things associated with the military. A huge portion of our population lap this stuff up with an insatiable appetite. The late, great comedian George Carlin called these people “uniform-sniffers.”
Late 18th through early 19th Century Germany had a similar passion for the ideal of Prussian military discipline and all its overblown trappings such as spiked army helmets, goose-stepping in knee-length hobnail boots, and fashionable dueling scars. That cult-like devotion was in large part responsible for the insanity that caused Germany to destroy itself in two world wars.
Here in modern America we are marching (pun intended) down a similar path to ruin. We spend trillions of dollars on maintaining far too many troops with far too many far too expensive weapons in far too many places throughout our empire. Our “leaders” pick fights as a pretext for invasion in an never-ending and ever-widening crusade to rule the world. Meanwhile, the domestic economy has crumbled and the unemployed, the elderly, the children are told that there will be cuts in the funding that could help them. But there will be funding increases for the war-machine. The pentagon budget is sacrosanct. And one of the main ways our “leaders” keep it untouchable is through encouragement of our national military fetish. Our troops are loyal, brave, and unparalleled; how could we consider cutting the budget for the troops we worship?
Ironically, the uniform-sniffers worship a caricature. That leaves them little awareness or interest in how much this war is costing our soldiers in human terms: the wrecked families, suicides, physical & psychological disabilities, and combat deaths. Our megalomaniacal “leaders” care little to nothing about the troops, they certainly aren’t going to bring those weaknesses to the sniffers’ attention. And so it is up to people like you and I. We must honor America’s present-day troops and the memory of the casualties in that ridiculously long list of battles by doing our best to end all war.