Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Once again, my traditional Memorial Day post, first published in 2009, and updated just a little each year.

I used to march in the Memorial Day parade. I was dressed in my Brownie uniform, and then in my Girl Scout uniform - replete with those hated anklets. I wore them because the troop leader said we couldn't march without them and marching was too cool to pass up.

All the school bands marched too, and the moms on Benjamin Road provided the materials and the labor to make the capes the high school kids wore. There must have been a military presence there, but I didn't pay enough attention to notice. I was marching and I knew that, all over America, other kids were being Americans and marching, too.

I belonged.

In Marin, the Memorial Day parade was always good for a controversy or two. Or three. Should the anti-war protesters walk alphabetically in the main march, or have their own march, or walk 50 yards behind the official march? I especially liked this discussion: should weaponry be allowed?

That was fairly disingenuous even for Marin.

There were bands at this parade, too, and with Bobby Weir as the Grand Marshal you know the music was worth hearing, especially at the picnic in the park afterwards. Not exactly your typical VFW-sponsored event, but no one was complaining. It was Memorial Day; there had to be a parade.

I've got the flag G'ma bought us for a housewarming present, which replaced the one Dadooooo got us in Chicago. There are red and white roses in the big blue vase in the dining room. I'll wear the tie-dyed tank top the Cuters and I made early one July. Red/White/Blue -- it makes for great patterns. I've got the plastic flag on my bike handles - the same one I bought with the Cuters at the 5 and Dime Store in New Buffalo in 1985.

Life is good.

As you pass the potato salad and watch the flag wave in the breeze., take a moment and remember those who gave their lives so that it can be so.
That was the original post, and I still love it.  The memories make me smile.

It used to be so easy..... or so it seemed. In the 1950's and early 1960's Vietnam was France's problem in Indochina, not ours.  The Middle East was bedouins and Jews and sand.  Our parents had lived through and, mostly, survived World War II, defeating the Nazi's and the Japanese, fighting the good fight, where evil was clearly on the other side.

The soldiers and sailors who perished so that my friends and I could walk down Brower Avenue in our Brownie uniforms did so in a conflict where everyone agreed about the bad guys. It was a simple dichotomy, there were no shades of gray.  It wasn't imperialism or internecine religious conflict - it was invasion and genocide and it was very clear.  The Axis made no secret of their goals.
Vietnam swallowed our country in a moral dilemma - Americans were now the invading force.  And then, it got worse.  We freed Granada, and US medical students studying there were safely evacuated.

Even then, we were the good guys, rescuing kids who couldn't get into American medical schools, saving the short-shorted future physicians from random terror.

It seemed a bit much, somewhat over the top, but Reagan spun it and we moved on.

And where have we ended up?  In a conflict with no clear end in sight, we are attempting to fix a 6th century religious war with drones and bombs.  The media is filled with outrage over the destruction of ancient relics in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

And our representatives on the ground and in the air are dying.

I used to end this post with this Thomas Jefferson's quote
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed, from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." November 13, 1787
Now, I'm not so sure that he is right.  Certainly, the blood of patriots has been spilled.  I'm just not sure that they were fertilizing the tree of liberty.

And so, this Memorial Day, I am feeling the pain of those who lost their lives or limbs or brains in a conflict with no clear enemy, no clear end, and no real purpose.  Why are we there? is small comfort to those who perished or those they left behind.  Today, I am adding aggravation to my remembrances, and I don't like it at all.

I want to go back to being 10 again, where wearing anklets was the worst part of Memorial Day.  I'm not liking the angst in my heart right now.


  1. We grew up when it seemed simpler, me even more than you. My uncles were in WWII, one in the European campaign and the other a pilot ferrying supplies between California and Hawaii. It seemed a war that everyone agreed we had to fight and then came all the stories that portrayed another side to it. That more should have been done earlier, before the Holocaust, that when we dropped the bomb, we didn't have to as Japan was done. Russia was advancing and we did it for other reasons-- intimidating reasons. Now it's like we have either a rigid set of right and wrongs or none where it comes to when we should go to war and for what. I worry that Memorial Day becomes such a rah rah day that it's all about inciting new kids to sign up at the same time I worry that the ones who did fight in all our wars carry emotional and sometimes physical burdens none of us will ever fully understand. I have mixed feelings on this day. When I was a girl, in my part of the country, it was more Decoration Day and for all the graves... now it's about soldiers which I guess was its original purpose.

    I literally don't know what I think anymore about any of it. and that bothers me. It seemed more comfortable to live with certainty than how it is now for me.

    1. Just what I meant to convey, Rain. I'm uncomfortable.


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