Those of you who have followed me on social media for the last few years know that I have a difficult time with Memorial and Veterans' Day. I am grateful for those who have served and died to help maintain freedom, whenever and wherever that may have been. I am grateful for those who answered the call of our country, whether or not our country was right, not out of nationalistic pride but through their own sense of personal integrity.
But this is where I part ways with those who celebrate these holidays, for war is not something to be celebrated.
I'll speak specifically about Memorial Day, since it passed just recently. This is a day to honor those who died while serving in the armed forces. It is not a day for those who served and returned and died later, as did both of my grandfathers. Nor is it a day for those who served and still lived. This is why we have Veterans' Day.
Neither is it a day to celebrate capitalism, except that in America that's every day, so I guess we give that one a pass.
Memorial Day is when we ought to take a good hard look at all of the blood that has been spilt over the two-and-a-half centuries this nation has existed. How much of that legitimately served to maintain our freedom? How much was to exert imperialism — to take away the freedom of others? And how much to simply fill the pockets of already wealthy men with even more gold?
These are difficult questions to ask, but we owe it not only to ourselves but to the men and women currently serving, and to those who may serve in the future. We need to know when our own government has lied to us (and on whose behalf) so we may better consider whether to wage the next war.
And we owe it to ourselves to seek honest answers. It's comforting to watch a movie that caters to our preconceptions, that asserts American exceptionalism, that paints us as the saviors of all free peoples. It's much more difficult to accept the truth. I don't know a great deal of, and the more I learn the harder it is for me to be a proud American. Not most because we've done horrific things (and boy have we). No. It's because our institutions refuse to acknowledge these horrors. Because they place nationalism — jingoism, really — above the desire to improve as a country and as individuals.
What do we tell our kids? That honesty is the best policy, that if you've done something wrong it's better to fess up and deal with the consequences than to run away or try and hide it. Which is a great policy. The sooner we recognize our mistakes, the sooner we can fix things and learn valuable lessons, and the closer we can be to each other. But here's the thing: we, as a nation, do not practice what we preach. As information becomes more freely available the easier it is to learn that the people we trust to lead us cannot be trusted. That the foundational truths we've been taught about our nation are just as mythical as Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome who were raised by a wolf. And why do we keep trusting these leaders? Why do we re-elect those who value oil over life? Who send entire nations into shambles because the dictator, whatever else he might have done, still placed his own nation's interests above those of American corporations? Why do we not all riot in the streets, demanding the heads of these corrupt officials?
I want to say more, really I do, but I can't right now. My show is on.