Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day ?

My own thoughts on Memorial Day are with those who served in World Wars I and II, otherwise, I feel much along these lines - words of the late Howard Zinn. The following paragraphs begin a piece he wrote in 1976, the full piece is HERE

Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?
by Howard Zinn

Memorial Day will be celebrated ... by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments.

In 1974, I was invited by Tom Winship, the editor of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. I did that for about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection with that year's Memorial Day. After it appeared, my column was canceled.

* * * * *

Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.

It will also be celebrated by the display of flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking applause.

It will be celebrated by giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President.

There was a young woman in New Hampshire who refused to allow her husband, killed in Vietnam, to be given a military burial. She rejected the hollow ceremony ordered by those who sent him and 50,000 others to their deaths. Her courage should be cherished on Memorial Day. There were the B52 pilots who refused to fly those last vicious raids of Nixon's and Kissinger's war. Have any of the great universities, so quick to give honorary degrees to God-knows-whom, thought to honor those men at this Commencement time, on this Memorial Day?

No politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities, should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past wars he honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.


mike said...

Well, the slaughter does go on and there are many types of war, not necessarily identified as a military war, but certainly there are plenty of those to go around this globe, too. Part and parcel of the human race, both past and present, with our future mortgaged to war as well.

We have vigilantes at war with their chosen selections. The religious wars...perhaps the most farcical of all. The should-be-psychiatric-patients at war with their demons reflected in innocent victims, which ensnares the National Rifle Association's war on their rights and freedoms. The drug wars and their turf mafia. Child and adult kidnappings for use as sex slaves war. The war that the rich and elite have endeavored to extract every natural resource to further their gain, which overlaps the war against climate change and destruction of species, including the only Earth we have. The war governments (national to local) have against our privacy and personal freedoms. These are a few that I can think of right now.

“A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.” James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

mike (again) said...

P.S. - Memorial Day is a USA holiday to remember the individuals that died at war...any war...regardless of the logic behind the wars...or why that particular soldier was drafted or chose to be in that war. It's a special day for the LIVING to honor their dead. I have tremendous sympathy for any grandparent, parent, sibling, child, relative, or friend that has lost one or many soldiers to war. Any war.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Lots of different kinds of wars, yes. The biggest one we're fighting now is with ourselves, for survival as a you mentioned there.

We've just been watching a video to which husband's daughter sent me a link yesterday - you might enjoy it too mike - if you have around 90 mins to spare sometime - it's a talk by Douglas Adams ('Hitchhiker's Guide' guy) speaking at University of California a short time before he died, on environmental and related matters - very interesting - entertaining too.


Memorial Day for the USA is a bit different from the UK's version held on November 11. The attendant commercialism and "holiday" feel to Memorial Day strikes a sour note for me - but yes, I too feel for anyone who lost a loved one in any war.

mike (again) said...

Thanks for the Douglas Adams' link, Twilight. I'm not sure I'll view any time soon. My notebook is tethered to my DSL modem at my desk...not the most comfortable for viewing 90 minutes and I'm at low-speed downloading, so many pauses. My body's attention span is about 15 minutes.

Like you, I disdain the commercialization of special days, but that's a fault of the retailers and participating consumers rather than the special day itself.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ I understand. even though I don't have your computer problems I usually have a short attention span for watching or reading long pieces online - stiff neck etc.

Agreed about Memorial Day.

R J Adams said...

Dear Howard Zinn! One of my heroes. His breed seem to be rapidly dying out. I concur, of course, with everything he wrote, but I'm not surprised his column was then terminated.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~ It was a dot on the card that he'd soon be "out the door".
As in the case of Eugene Debs - I wish we could clone Howard Zinn.