Not letting the war-makers off the hook

As people MIGHT remember, Memorial Day formerly Decoration Day, is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. It was on May 30 from 1868 to 1970, after which it became a “Monday holiday” to extend the weekend.

The tug-of-war between solemn remembrance and summertime fun is almost as old as the holiday itself, so I shan’t rail against its designation as the “unofficial start of the summer vacation season.”

Presumably, the point of the American civilian government is to lessen the number of its citizens killed in war. I was taken by a May 2016 article in Forbes by Todd Essig:

“[Honor] the memory of those who died in war not just on Memorial Day but all year long by actively engaging the political process. Read what candidates say. Hold them accountable for who they are, what they do and what they say. Get news from multiple sources. We have to be collectively smart to make sure the next Commander in Chief has the requisite temperament and experience to make decisions that will inevitably result in the deaths of many sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.”

Not incidentally, he stated that the now current White House occupant does not have those important qualities. The United States withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal codifies that for me.

Essig noted: “Honoring the fallen on Memorial Day does not let the war-makers off the hook. It does not mean forgetting that war is always filled with horror and trauma, mangled bodies and lost lives. All wars are political failures worthy of scorn, as are politicians who fail at peace. And unnecessary wars fought on the basis of ideological faith and incomplete, even fabricated, intelligence deserve our deepest scorn, scorn that honors those who have died.”

A 2015 Vox piece suggested a holiday to honor those who try to stop wars. I had not thought of that, but there is some wisdom in that.

Memorial Day 2017: a worrying recklessness

One of the things I want in life more than almost anything is a government that does not, willy nilly, add to the number of people that we remember each year on Memorial Day.

There was a point in the last couple months where the sabre-rattling made me fear that the United States might be going to war in North Korea. AND Syria. AND Iran. Possibly at the same time. OK, we’re already fighting in Syria, but I mean against the Syrian government.

The notion that the current regime wants to increase military spending by tens of billions of dollars is troubling enough. The fact that the plan has been offered by an amateur chicken hawk bereft of military experience is terrifying. Yes, he has some military brass in his Cabinet, and indeed, arguably, an overabundance of them. But the defense of the United States is supposedly under civilian control.

From The Atlantic, way back in December 2016: “‘Appointing too many generals would throw off the balance of a system that for good reason favors civilian leadership,’ writes The New York Times’ Carol Giacomo. ‘The concern is not so much that military leaders might drag the country into more wars. It is that the Pentagon, with its nearly $600 billion budget, already exercises vast sway in national security policymaking and dwarfs the State Department in resources.’ In The Washington Post, Phillip Carter and Loren DeJonge Schulman warn that ‘great generals don’t always make great Cabinet officials’ and add that ‘relying on the brass, however individually talented, to run so much of the government could also jeopardize civil-military relations.'”

And when the person purportedly in charge doesn’t seem to stand by the very words he says, it’s a scary time. He praises international strongmen, such as in the Phillippines and even, seemingly, North Korea.

The New Yorker’s David Remick: He “flouts truth… so brazenly that he undermines the country he has been elected to serve and the stability he is pledged to insure. His bluster creates a generalized anxiety such that the President of the United States can appear to be scarcely more reliable than any of the world’s autocrats… When [he] rushes to congratulate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for passing a referendum that bolsters autocratic rule in Turkey—or when a sullen and insulting meeting with Angela Merkel is followed by a swoon session with Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the military dictator of Egypt—how are the supporters of liberal and democratic values throughout Europe meant to react to American leadership?”

This letter to the editor of the News Tribute gets to my concerns: “The administration displays a worrying recklessness, and disregard for both international law and constitutional separation of powers. These actions threaten our security and democratic governance. The administration appears to have no/little concern for diplomatic means to conflict resolution.”

My hope and prayer is that the reckless policy does not add to the numbers we memorialize today, but based on history, that is an unrealistic wish.

Memorial Day: revisionist history

Almost a year ago, Demeur sent me an article about the history of Memorial Day.

[Historian David] Blight’s award-winning Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001) explained how three “overall visions of Civil War memory collided” in the decades after the war.

The first was the emancipationist vision, embodied in African Americans’ remembrances and the politics of Radical Reconstruction, in which the Civil War was understood principally as a war for the destruction of slavery and the liberation of African Americans to achieve full citizenship.

The second was the reconciliationist vision, ostensibly less political, which focused on honoring the dead on both sides, respecting their sacrifice, and the reunion of the country.

The third was Continue reading

Memorial Day, 2013: WWJD

I’m in my church book study a couple months back. We are reading Jesus for President, VERY slowly, for it has much to offer.

Much to my surprise, I get really ticked off, though not at anyone in the room. It was the re-realization that the war in Iraq, indeed many wars, are in stark contrast with Christian ideals. Yet Christianists seemed to have embraced war as some sort of Christo-American manifest destiny.

It surely didn’t help that this was around the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, when I was also reading about: Continue reading

Memorial Day History

Mostly from here, because people seem to have no idea of the genesis of Memorial Day:

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

A long weekend!

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion Continue reading

Decoration Day


I’m old enough to remember when Memorial Day was on the 30th of May, not the last Monday in May, which was a change that took place in 1971. I’m not sure when the holiday changed from being called Decoration Day to Memorial Day, though I recently saw a 1902 Library Journal making reference to the former name.

The holiday was designed to remember the dead from the American Civil War (or however it was called by others) on both sides of the battle. According to the Continue reading

In Memoriam

I’ve discovered that there seems to be some confusion about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. That fact confuses me, frankly, though their previous designations would be much more unclear.

Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the American military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Whereas: Continue reading