Today, some of my Facebook friends have filled their pages with images of American flags and quotes from former leaders. They all mean well, of course, but I can’t abide; I am not proud of my country right now. Our current leader has made the day all about him (no surprise there), or as CNN’s Chris Cillizza so aptly put it, “Donald Trump just put the ‘Me’ in his Memorial Day tweet.” (https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/28/politics/donald-trump-memorial-day-tweet/index.html).
Those in the current administration or Congress sit quietly and do nothing when such statements are made by the president. I question their allegiance to this country’s principles and feel they make a mockery of the deaths of our soldiers by remaining silent. They are corrupted by their power. Corruption is a common characteristic in tyrannical governments, and our soldiers have died freeing other countries’ citizens from these types of regimes. Do they not see how culpable they are in the erosion of democracy?
I suspect that many who gave their lives to save our democracy and to free others from a life of tyranny elsewhere would not recognize the United States of America today. I’m thinking mainly of soldiers who died in World War II, who were both protecting us from invasion and trying to free Europe, Asia, and northern Africa from tyrannical rule, but these thoughts could apply to those who died in the numerous conflicts elsewhere since then. Don’t get me wrong, I honor the complete sacrifice of our fallen soldiers. I mourn the lives cut short and the promises of who they could have become had they survived. That hurts to think about.
No one in my large extended family lost their lives while serving. I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak of families who lost soldiers, whose last embraces on the airstrip tarmac were the very last ones, who yearn for the presence of lost loved ones year after lonely year as they are left to cope with their absence. I can feel that pain in the pit of my stomach, or the lump in my throat, but it will never be as severely felt as for those families.
Flash forward to our world in a few years. Imagine the conflicts we could be involved in. Imagine future Memorial Days–that is, if we are lucky enough to survive future wars. Will we honor the soldiers who die while invading Iran or North Korea for regime change, or who die once again in the deserts of the Middle East to protect oil wealth? Will we have become so desensitized or numb to global conflict by then that we won’t care? Will we be so suppressed by authoritarian rule in a dystopian society that we will not feel free to speak out against conflict? Will the dead soldiers of past conflicts have died in vain?
“I tell you, war is Hell.”–William Tecumseh Sherman (1870)