Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day, 2012

What's the right way to greet someone on Memorial Day? I mean, is it okay to wish the other person "Happy Memorial Day"?

"Happy" just doesn't seem the right sentiment for a day that is dedicated to remembering those who died fighting for the nation. If you lost a loved one to one of the nation's wars, you probably aren't all that happy today. I wouldn't be, anyway. I might be proud, I might be thankful, but there would always be a part of me that would be sad and maybe angry that that person wasn't a part of my life any more.

That's all I had to say about that. But as I was walking along earlier, when that stray thought crossed my mind, I realized I was bugged by a tangential issue that I had to mention.

When the hell did it become unpatriotic to object to this nation's wars of choice?

You know how the argument goes: if you were, or are, opposed to the war in Iraq, say, a sizable minority of people in this country are quick to accuse you of disloyalty, or worse, of hating our volunteer military who are, in case you hadn't noticed, a hell of a lot more selfless and dedicated to their country than you are, Mr. (or Ms.) Not-In-Uniform.

That is such a staggeringly stupid argument, it astonishes me that the people who make it have enough brain tissue to breathe unassisted.

I know, mine is not a charitable attitude. It certainly doesn't make a good starting point for reasoned discourse, which is the only way we're going to increase this country's overall intelligence. I confess to being irritated beyond endurance that the aforementioned argument is taken seriously by anyone, so I'm in no mood to be broadminded and patient. Yet in the spirit of national comity, and on the off chance some of those who believe criticism of our nation's less felicitously chosen conflicts is taboo give two figs and a damn what I think, let me explain why the argument is so blindingly boneheaded.

First, stop and listen to what the critics are saying. They're — oh, why be coy: we're — not saying that the soldiers are morally defective. We're saying that the soldiers are being misused, that their deeply admirable contribution to our nation is being squandered.

Do you see the distinction?

Of the many asinine legacies of the '60s counterculture, it's hard to top the idiocy of young privileged hippies denouncing their less fortunate contemporaries in uniform as "baby killers". The only good to come out of that ugliness was the belated recognition of just how stunningly moronic it was to blame the foot soldiers for being where they were told to be, doing what they were told to do.

We know that the folks carrying the hundred-pound packs don't choose where they are deployed. That is a civilian decision. That means it's really our collective responsibility — "our", as in all of us who have the right to vote.

So when we criticize "the Iraq War", we are criticizing the civilian dipshits in Washington, D.C., who masterminded that fiasco. We are loudly proclaiming that it was a terrible, terrible mistake to have embarked on that conflict. ("Mistake" is a grotesquely genteel way of putting it, by the way.) And when it comes right down to it, we're criticizing our fellow countrymen (and -women) who were so goddamned eager to take us into that idiotic conflict in the first place. We thought it was pretty fucking obvious that we were being stampeded to war by disingenuous politicos (hello, Dick Cheney; greetings, Paul Wolfowitz; and salutations to many more). The rest of you just weren't listening.

But we can argue about that another time. The point for today is, it's way the hell past time for those of you who still buy into the "criticizing the war [whatever war it is] is unAmerican" argument to stop. That argument is beyond weak sauce; it doesn't even rise to the level of horseshit or bullshit, both of which are far more useful. That argument, in fact, is itself unAmerican and unpatriotic because it's an attempt to suppress free speech — speech that might well be needed to correct the dishonesty of the ones driving us into the next ill-chosen, unnecessary, unaffordable and morally unjustifiable war.

So stop equating criticism of the conflict with criticism of the troops. They're not the same thing, and nobody's dishing out the latter: it's only in your overheated imagination. If you're so eager to stick up for the soldiers, think long and hard before agitating for the next military incursion far from our shores. Spare the troops and their families the agony of enduring more wars we don't need to fight.

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