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Today, we can honor, and remember,
fallen men and women, and pay homage
to their sacrifice, because
we and the country for which they fought
are still here.

We call them men and women but many
were little more than children, with
faces that were not yet scarred and lined,
and hearts that had not yet truly known
the sublime and bottomless joy of love
or the pain of its loss, with
minds hardly equipped yet to comprehend
the nobility of shared dreams or the
futility of hatred sprouted from
petty differences, or violence born of
greed, or jealousy, or fear.

We bow our heads, thinking
of the ways in which
our lives are much better,
our choices broader,
our horizons brighter,
how we can enjoy untroubled, if
only for a moment, our
barbecue and our beer,
our night at the ballpark,
or thinking that perhaps
we wouldn't be here at all,
had they not fought, and fallen.

We think these things sincerely,
wrapped solemnly in our flag,
with gratitude and patriotic pride.
And, mostly, in thinking these things,
we are not wrong.

We banish the forbidden thought
that family and friends and neighbors
might have sacrificed, or died,
or killed,
for reasons futile, or unnecessary, or sordid,
and that others might do so again,
as such thoughts are not just heretical;
they are unbearable.

But perhaps we best honor the sacrifice
of those who have fallen, of our children,
when we ponder the imponderable
and think the unthinkable, and try,
difficult as that may be, to
bear the unbearable.

When we consider not only our sworn
enemies, but those who are the
admirals of our economic armies,
the captains of industries now largely
moved to shores where labor is
cheap and plentiful and the concept
of global ecology an unaffordable luxury;
of billionaire plutocrats

who equate democracy with the
freedom to plunder and hoard
the riches of the planet and collect the
meager wealth of those whose
hands are calloused,
without interference or being
called to account;

who consider freedom the ability to
demean and deprive and despoil and
spread confusion and distrust, to be able
to soak our beaches in the crudest of oil,
and destroy our rain forests and melt our
glaciers and destroy our middle class
with blitheness and impunity;

who seek to deprive the less fortunate
of safety, and their homes, and
health care, because if you are not a
master of the universe, and especially
if you are poor
or brown or black or speak with an accent
you are, by their formulation of
natural order and a just society,
less deserving;

who spout platitudes that equate
empathy with weakness, and
America with the idea that
providing equality of opportunity
is socialism and evil;

who understand war as an opportunity
for consolidation, domination and profit;

and who ensure that millions can
be spent, without question, to buy the
protection of those whom we entrust with
our votes.

True homage is never reflexive.
If we refuse to learn from those who gave up
the chance to know love, and loss, and the
satisfaction of a life well lived,
by seeking to understand why they were
asked to give up all,
and based on what we come to understand,
to work to ensure that nobody will ever again
be asked to sacrifice, unquestioningly,
for the profit, or pettiness, or unbounded
greed of others,
then we have not honored them at all.

Steven Kanig

Originally posted to flitedocnm on Mon May 31, 2010 at 02:09 PM PDT.

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