Break out the propane and carcass, fill the pool, it’s Memorial Day. While the more traditional towns are holding parades and ceremonies to honor the million American servicemen and women who have given their lives for this country, President Bush thoughtfully asked Americans to pay tribute to veterans by pausing today for “a moment of remembrance.”
Not enough remembrance to risk any depth of examination into veteran benefits and treatment, mind you. But a good moment’s worth. He recommended that we place flags at the graves of veterans, visit a battlefield or say a prayer. Better yet, where can I get one of those really useful yellow ribbons that reminds everybody that I’m a good American and I’m on the right team? I seem to be overdue for one of those.
It’s a weird fucking climate out there. Clinton, reviving the familiar “offended victim” role in her desperate struggle to stay in the race for the Democratic nomination, has taken to referencing Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and having her husband shout “Cover-up!” to anyone who will listen. McCain’s riding a wave of Bush-backer appeasement to lock down the votes of the millions who are much more comfortable with the warts and sores of the standard regime than the thought of turning the country over to a bitch or a nigger. This may go some ways towards explaining why the war hero supports Bush’s rejection of the GI Bill, which would better soldiers’ future prospects by offering them the same college benefits this country offered their grandfathers six decades ago. It’s a topic of raging debate between Obama and McCain, and both candidates are doing their damnedest today to be more patriotic than the other while carefully avoiding any direct shit-talking until the festivities are over.
But to hell with all that. What we should really be focusing our attention on today are the hundreds of thousands of veterans who are alive and need our help. We could also do with a little more thorough examination of the running claim that the majority of the world holds us in such extreme contempt because they either can’t understand our “highest ideals” or they hate freedom. In the immortal words of David Cross, “If the terrorists hated freedom, then the Netherlands would be fuckin’ dust. As would Denmark and Sweden and Switzerland and New Zealand and Canada and every other country that’s truly freer than we are.”
Let’s not forget, “freedom” is the supposed reason our loved ones are dying in the sand more than 6,000 miles away.
Honoring the veterans and the fallen is one thing, but a mix of disgust and vicarious humiliation washes over me when I hear Bush speak with fierce authority about upholding “America’s highest ideals” and plucking the violin strings by poetically describing the return home of the fallen as “broken hearts receiving broken bodies.” When his administration deceived this country into supporting a viciously bloody war that’s killed thousands of our boys (and girls), imprisoned those suspected of being “terrorists” without trial or benefit of legal counsel, tortured prisoners in America’s name and done everything but set fire to the U.S. Constitution, Bush’s speechwriters should be choosing his words more carefully, just in case somebody who might’ve paid any attention over the past eight years was listening.
Perhaps the best way to honor the brave sacrifice of our soldiers is to provide them with the benefits they need and deserve after their service. Or, better yet, stop sending them to die for false causes.