Memorial Day. This is the time we customarily set aside for the purpose of remembering the friends, relatives, neighbors and fellow citizens both living and deceased who served in the United States Armed Forces in order that we may yet enjoy the blessings of liberty that the Constitution of our country so mandates.
Today, we do this in many ways: we go on picnics to mark the unofficial first day of summertime, we hold parades, we race multimillion dollar cars around race tracks for hundreds of miles while spectators swill beer and engorge themselves on pizza and chips, we listen to a lot of stirring, patriotic John Philip Sousa music when we want to feel proud and Taps when we have to lay a member of our armed forces to rest. Memorial Day entreats the politicians to solemnly posturize themselves and attempt to wax eloquent when presented with a stump of sufficient altitude from which to bray.
As a veteran who is plowing through my senior years as more of my body parts remind me how little time I have left, I personally have no patience with people calling themselves “patriots” as they endorse persons and policies that injure, shame, belittle and discriminate against other people - basically because while I served I knew that I was in the service of ALL Americans - not any special group, race, party, religion or cult. The character of my particular service made me aware of nuances and inflections in many things, and admittedly, a few of them remain triggers for me long after I collected my DD 214, took off my uniform and donned jeans, a polo shirt and sandals then drove out of the base’s main gate for good. And so it was, way back in 2005 when I watched “President” Dubya Bush read his scripted "Aw shucks" Memorial Day commemorative speech in Arlington Cemetery on the television and as he stood in front of that Tomb of the Unknowns, he accidentally explained using a perfect metaphor why, as a veteran, I no longer hold my country in general and my government in particular in any fond regard. Bush's exact words were: "This ground is watered with silent tears.” That’s when my few remaining vestiges of überpatriotism evaporated. For me, his remark inverted the purpose and definition of Memorial Day.
Silent tears. Wow. That one sure took some serious chutzpah. Ask any Native American or Native Hawaiian about those “silent tears”: two peaceful, non-combative nations invaded then conquered through brutal force. And it’s been the same theme throughout this country’s history. What silenced those tears, Dubya? They never used to be very silent until fascist politicians stole and then rick-rolled our government by doing everything they could think of to stifle the vote for those who didn’t fit their “patriot profile”, deny liberty for every woman in America by criminalizing her right to control her own body and steal every inch of land they could find in their religious fervor to realize “Manifest Destiny”. Hell, people of color in the armed forces couldn’t even use the same toilet as white people to take a dump or a leak until Truman issued the executive order to put an end to that “policy”. The conservatives in this country - especially (and predictably) the ones from the south - nearly lost their minds over it. And it took 400 years after John Smith set up camp in Jamestowne for women to start to have a say in our government. Remembering sacrifice on Memorial Day? Perhaps lowering one’s expectations for the concept of “progress” is what we were actually defending.
I actually remember when people used to get riled up, angry and even profoundly pissed off when they watched dozens of flag-draped coffins being off-loaded from MAC aircraft at Dover Air Force Base on the evening news - especially year after year of supporting a botched war waged on false pretenses. That was Vietnam. The fascist policy wonks later learned from that to muzzle the media and keep them away from those images of production-line casualties that would force people to reconsider the wisdom of perpetuating a failed policy. Americans are no longer allowed to see any of that or any domestic mass carnage and the aftermaths therefrom on television or in the press: after all, it might make us appear to be exactly what it actually looks like: a bloodlust country in anarchy under lawless, violent chaos and insurrection, in support of a “crime industry” that pays handsome wages for police, attorneys, judges, prison wardens and guards, consultants and technical support staff. Their reasoning? If we don't see any tears, there must not be anybody crying - after all, that would make for really bad optics….
As the republican cult muzzles the cries of the families of veterans coming home from yet another vile cesspool of a foreign war, where will the tears stop? At the edge of a gurney in Walter Reed Hospital as another battle-mutilated soldier contemplates suicide when he learns that there isn't any support for him after he's discharged from the service and his family has to assume the full financial burden for his ongoing medical treatments? Are they weeping because congressional republicans shut down every proposal to increase funds for enhancing the under-served support for Veterans Administration hospitals? Or as the last fistfull of dirt is dropped into an open grave that another over-extension of the Military Industrial Complex has dug for America’s reputation as a nation, what is the next "shock and awe" move for demonizing the people opposed to the conservative brand of thug governance? What gives a republican governor in the state of South Carolina the right to claim that he can’t wait for the day when Democrats can be hunted with dogs? And what if the Democrats being hunted down happen to be veterans? Surely some of my veteran brothers and sisters didn’t die in combat for THAT?
It turns out those tears are silenced because few today can even bring themselves to cry anymore. After decades of being inundated by nearly weekly offenses that far exceed anything Richard Nixon ever did approaching "high crimes and misdemeanors" and seditious treason, the great majority of my fellow American citizens no longer seem to be compelled to do or say much of anything consequential about it, least of all vote because anarchy, mistrust, misinformation and suspicion have become so throughly normalized. But republicans still hype their "compassionate conservative" sales pitch, expecting that the 45% of intellectually bankrupt lemmings in this country don’t mind that some fascist redneck is legislating their morality and faith as they willingly walk off a cliff because they’re told it's their patriotic duty to do so.
So what’s the point of all these histrionics in this missive? As a Vietnam era veteran I gave six years of my life to protect and defend ….. this? Have our American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen’s bodies fertilized every continent and their blood stained every body of water on earth to defend the likes of Marge Green, Ted Nugent, Sean Hannity, Donald Trump, Lauren Boebert and Mitch McConnell to do and say anything they can think of to tank 230 years of blood, toil, tears and sweat expended to make this country a land of liberty and a safe haven for everyone? What exactly are we supposed to remember here on MemoriaL Day now? How much the weapons and ammunition used in all those wars cost the budget? Are we actually expected to be PROUD of this?
The republican cult has difficulty grasping the fact that every square inch of the ground upon which we walk contains far more veteran’s blood than public tears: blood from conquest, blood from sacrifice, blood from murder. Anything that any one of them has to say on Memorial Day about sacrifices made by our Armed Forces is hypocritical grandstanding: they don’t give a damn about our people, the history or the sacrifices because their only concern is the pursuit of power. At every opportunity it seems they even publicly reveal what they want to do and how they want to do it to achieve their fascist agenda yet people refuse to believe them … until even more of their liberty is curtailed and their pockets are emptied again.
Silent tears indeed, Dubya. Tears can’t come from closed eyes, a criminal denial of history and minds devoid of empathy. This is the America our grandchildren are currently doomed to inherit. All that could change, if we as a nation were brave enough to confront it. But it’s far, far easier and less expensive in terms of both time and money to simply remember our war dead with tiny paper flags made in China and deify the armed forces with shallow jingoism on Memorial Day than recall and understand the historical reasons for those sacrifices, treating our expensive citizenship in this country with the solemn respect it deserves.