This is the last entry about Memorial Day, our expectations for soldiers and the implications that these have for “ordinary” citizens and for foreign policy.
The Washington Post endorsed the invasion of Iraq and generally provided supportive coverage during the first months of the war. However, they provided one type of coverage that went beyond the MO of what embedded reporters were supposed to do. They had one reporter embedded with the troups and reporting on events such as the hundreds of Iraqis that gathered for the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statute. They also had another reporter not embedded with the troups, but following in their wake. This reporter observed thousands demonstrating against our country’s invasion of their homeland, once our troops were comfortably out of sight.
This comparison of hundreds for us and thousands against us should provide a sobering perspective to the positive eyewitness reports we get from vets during Memorial Day speeches. They get to see snapshots of Iraq that we do not, but those snapshots do not tell the whole story. Even so, I think the bigger problem lies in them providing positive reports at all, regardless of how accurate those reports are. Memorial Day should be for mourning fallen soldiers, not for vindicating current foreign policy.
Soldiers are our current link to who we naturally are as humans, a species that evolved to serve each other in small social bands and willing to die for a cause. I don’t think honoring them for being what we all should be is what Memorial Day should be about, trumping up the honorifics with the misinformation that they are dieing abroad to protect our freedoms at home, or trumping up their current successes. The real purpose of that misinformation is to get “ordinary” citizens to blindly support leaders in their decisions of foreign intervention, which have been totally disastrous from the fifties on. Even before the fifties we must balance out our participation in the World Wars with our acquired taste for overturning democratic governments and replacing them with military dictators in the Banana Republics.
Memorializing our fallen soldiers should not be a public relations event. We should be truly mournful of the loss of those who have died tragically, and often due to tragic decisions. We should be willing to learn from the past, for the sake of preventing future tragic losses of soldiers, rather than putting on a noble and successful spin to gain our patriotic support for whatever decisions of foreign intervention our government makes. The most basic and important freedom of all is for us to think independently, based on what we experience and not on blind allegiance to paternal leaders, political parties or interest groups. Our experiences should be telling us that there are now too few citizens ready to serve or willing to die, and we are losing too many of those who still hold on to these natural human attributes because of an increasingly paternal democracy.