Sunday, May 27, 2012


Tomorrow will be Memorial Day in the United States. I find it difficult - well nigh impossible - to write a paragraph or two on the topic of current US wars without losing my temper and raising my blood pressure, so I mostly avoid mention. Because tomorrow ought not to pass without notice, I'm taking the liberty of copying a few paragraphs by Tom Engelhardt from his recent piece:

How to Forget on Memorial Day by Tom Engelhardt
.......On this Memorial Day, there will undoubtedly be much cant in the form of tributes to “our heroes” and then, Tuesday morning, when the mangled cars have been towed away, the barbeque grills cleaned, and the “heroes” set aside, the forgetting will continue. If the Obama administration has its way and American special operations forces, trainers, and advisors in reduced but still significant numbers remain in Afghanistan until perhaps 2024, we have more than another decade of forgetting ahead of us in a tragedy that will, by then, be beyond all comprehension.

Afghanistan has often enough been called “the graveyard of empires.” Americans have made it a habit to whistle past that graveyard, looking the other way -- a form of obliviousness much aided by the fact that the American war dead conveniently come from the less well known or forgotten places in our country. They are so much easier to ignore thanks to that.

Except in their hometowns, how easy the war dead are to forget in an era when corporations go to war but Americans largely don’t. So far, 1,980 American military personnel (and significant but largely unacknowledged numbers of private contractors) have died in Afghanistan, as have 1,028 NATO and allied troops, and (despite U.N. efforts to count them) unknown but staggering numbers of Afghans. (My highlight)

So far in the month of May, 22 American dead have been listed in those Pentagon announcements. If you want a little memorial to a war that shouldn’t be, check out their hometowns and you'll experience a kind of modern graveyard poetry. Consider it an elegy to the dead of second- or third-tier cities, suburbs, and small towns whose names are resonant exactly because they are part of your country, but seldom or never heard by you.

Here, then, on this Memorial Day, are not the names of the May dead, but of their hometowns, announcement by announcement, placed at the graveside of a war that we can’t bear to remember and that simply won’t go away. If it’s the undead of wars, the deaths from it remain a quiet crime against American humanity:

Spencerport, New York
Wichita, Kansas
Warren, Arkansas
West Chester, Ohio
Alameda, California
Charlotte, North Carolina
Stow, Ohio
Clarksville, Tennessee
Chico, California
Jeffersonville, Kentucky
Yuma, Arizona
Normangee, Texas
Round Rock, Texas
Rolla, Missouri
Lucerne Valley, California
Las Cruses, New Mexico
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Overland Park, Kansas
Wheaton, Illinois
Lawton, Oklahoma
Prince George, Virginia
Terre Haute, Indiana.

As long as the hometowns pile up, no one should rest in peace.

Hear hear! Thank you Mr. Engelhardt.

1 comment:

R J Adams said...

With you on this one, as always, Twilight.