Memorial Day in America was created in 1868 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” So many have died since, in most of those conflicts to no clear point. 90,220 in Vietnam alone, and over a million civilians.
And yet, so few of us think seriously about the priceless human cost, or act constructively to curtail it in the future. James Fallows is right, there’s now a deep disconnect between most of us and those who risk the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
When I was a kid in the ’50s and ’60s and then older in the ’70s, American pop culture reflected a country familiar enough with its military to make fun of it at times. You had shows like “Gomer Pyle,” or “Hogan’s Heroes,” or “”McHale’s Navy.”
You had works of art like “South Pacific” or novels like “Catch 22″ and even movies like “MASH,” respected the importance of the military and the important things it did that were heroic in the large scale, like World War II, but it was still made of real people with their real foibles.
But we — now we have started to have this artificially reverent view of the military that’s also distant and disengaged.
Saying “Thank you for your service” is easy. It does not really “support the troops.” Strewing flowers might, as an occasion to think hard about all the lives senselessly lost to political foolishness and then act (or vote, at least) accordingly.
6 am/5:34, 69/89/62, 7:56
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