May 26, 2014

Can we remove an asterisk from Memorial Day?

Maybe even a couple?

But, definitely one.

I am officially still not a fan of the idea, after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, of adding "first responders" to those honored on Memorial Day. After World War I, when Memorial Day became a day to honor the dead of all wars, it was for war dead. The honoring of first responders runs the risk of marking 9/11 as part of the "Global War on Terror." Given how much police departments have militarized since that time, in part due to the "War on Terra," and in larger part in reaction to, and with money generated from, the "War on Drugs," this is kind of slippery slope territory.

That's the big asterisk.

Second one?

Per what I said above, I'd be OK with moving Memorial Day back to honoring Civil War dead, since they still make up half our war dead, and by weighted percentage of population, much more. (Imagine 3.5 million Americans dying in World War II, which is still far short of USSR war deaths, and you get the idea.)

I'd favor this idea in part due to the rise of the Tea Party and associated states rightsism. Since Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic started the idea of commemoration of Union war dead, it would remind various nutbars of who won that war.

That said, per Abraham Lincoln's words at Gettysburg, we need to be rededicated to that issue.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And, part of that is erasing the 125 years or so of Northern appeasement and amnesia, from about 1880 on, over why the war was fought, and the rise of the Klan and other Southern reaction to Reconstruction. (Sic on the text, for some people who note two missing words.)

Third asterisk? Especially in small towns of America, can we remove the religious steepings of the day? There's obvious First Amendment issues for me and other secularists. Beyond that, though. I am again reminded of Lincoln, this time in his Second Inaugural Address:
"Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.
Bingo. Invoking god in the picture often runs hand in hand with American exceptionalism. And, given that the Mexican War and Spanish-American War were both wars of imperialism, and that we really had no business in World War I, a little less American exceptionalism would be good. 

And, distantly related to that? Did anybody from the CIA die in the overthrow of Mossadegh or Arbenz, like we know died in Libya? If we're going to be honest about American wars and American imperialism (these covert operations are also the flip side of Eisenhower's warning about the "military-industry complex," his development of the "covert-underhanded complex) maybe we ought to be saluting the CIA and waving a CIA flag along with military service flags.

That said, since it was a Yankee abolitionist song, if we are going to keep religious elements at Memorial Day events, I'm all for singing every verse of "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Finally, a related asterisk.

If it takes you more than 2 minutes to sing the national anthem, off you go into a penalty box.

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