I see it all over my newsfeed today – memes and words posted by well meaning friends and family. There is no malice in those words – no ill feelings. More than likely they have hamburger patties sitting in the fridge and the potato salad is ready. Memorial Day is here. It’s the day families get together, pools open for the summer, and aloe cream is on the ready for the inevitable burn that comes from the first sun kiss of the season.
Yet, this day isn’t about any of that. This day reflects the great failures of global diplomacy – a day we honor those that died because human beings can’t stop being assholes. War is the result of that assholery.
This is actually quite a sad day. It is the day that we set aside to remember all those that made the ultimate sacrifice – in both unjust and justifiable war. However, no matter the nobility of the cause in which a war was waged, life lost is still life lost. Even more heartbreaking is the far more common scenario of modern warfare – lives lost in the name of greed and corruption.
Over and over again we see the trite statements, “Freedom isn’t free” or “Land of the free, because of the brave” as if this homage, these flippant suggestions, are an end that justifies a means. In World War II, the last war fought as a result of a direct threat to American freedom, over 450,000 American soldiers lost their lives. Since then, we have lost approximately 100,000 American soldiers in wars of debatable value.
American soldiers have not fought for the protection of our freedom for seven decades. Korea wasn’t about American’s freedom. Vietnam wasn’t about American’s freedom. Neither of the Iraq wars were about American’s freedom. Hell, even Afghanistan, which out of all of the modern day wars is far more justifiable than the others, wasn’t about our freedom, but revenge and justice. Anyone who thinks small cells of terrorists could take out a country that spends more on military force than any other country in the world – is a coward. Afghanistan may have been justifiable, and it may have been the right war to fight – but it wasn’t about our freedom.
Perhaps, on this day, we really should be saying “I’m sorry” rather than “Happy Memorial Day” or even, “Thank you.”
While the number of American lives lost in modern war has drastically decreased over the decades, families are still devastated when their sons or daughters return home in a flag draped coffin. Let us remember the human cost of war. Let us remember the failure of humanity when words are no longer enough to persuade, when the lust for power, money, or land supersedes the sanctity of human life.
More so than any other day, today should be the day that exemplifies the very grave decision to go to war and how it is rarely the answer.
To all those families who honor their loved ones today, I’m sorry. I know we can do so much better.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons