Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day, 2007

Imagine you're in a community shelter during a blizzard that has been forecast to last a week. There's a good number of people there, but plenty of food, water, and blankets. But then, after a day, the toilet is backing up. Something is terribly wrong with the septic line. Someone has to go out and find the problem, and, if he or she is lucky, get caught in a literal shit storm to prevent both the ugliness and health risks that will occur if the faulty plumbing isn't fixed. And remember, this is during a blizzard... it not a matter of "if something goes wrong you could die". You could do everything right, and die, just from bad luck.

It's a dirty, nasty and dangerous job, one that no one would really want, but it's one that many a person will take if it's necessary, especially if it's necessary to protect others.

That's how I view the members of our military. The people who've volunteered to walk into a shit storm, knowing it might kill them, if that's what it takes to protect us.

It's not glamorous, and though there've been people trying to glorify it, it's not glorious. It's hard, nasty work.

The people who do this deserve our gratitude. They deserve what glory we can give them, insofar as you can call expressions of our gratitude "glory".

Today is one of the days we set aside to commemorate their duty, and their sacrifice.

It's also a day for reflection.

How would you feel if you found out some snickering child (perhaps a 'child' who is over the age of majority) intentionally caused the clog in the plumbing, so someone had to perform that unpleasant task. Or, what if it turned out that there wasn't actually a clog in the first place, but someone still had to go out there to try to fix it.

It's one thing to send a man to do a nasty, dangerous job when it has to be done, when there's no other choice. It's another to send him out when there is a choice.

It's even worse when the kind of man who does that kind of job is the kind who will not complain, who will not question the job. The kind of men who can do that kind of thing, well, if they question and complain, they aren't the kinds who are best at getting the job done.

And it's even worse when it's not a pipe filled with crap that needs to be fixed, but is instead a matter of using violence to hurt people... hopefully, minimal violence, and hopefully, against the right people, but still people getting hurt and killed.

Again: if there's no other choice, that's one thing. If there's a choice, well, that's another.

And there was a choice.

George W. Bush was in charge of the government; he was the "decider", the "commander guy". The government knew that Saddam Hussein was a toothless tiger, and no threat to the United States. Whether Bush looked for that information or not, he had access to it, and was, in fact, responsible for knowing it.

The government knew that the war in Iraq would look, well, pretty much the way it does now, with violence and insurgency and terrorists using Iraq as a place to launch attacks against Iraqis and our military forces. Whether Bush knew that or not, he could have known it, and was, in fact, responsible for knowing it.

George W. Bush talks a good show. He will put on his sad face and talk about how terrible war is, and how much he understands and appreciates the sacrifices of our soldiers. He'll say it, and his people will parrot it, and people will insist it's true, and if you question it, well, folks might call you unpatriotic or insist that you just hate Bush... as if it's irrational to be angry with a man who has put our soldiers into such a nasty situation for this long, without having any idea how to bring them back home.

President Bush talks a good show, but it's all just a show.

For me, well, today I think of the horrors of war, and the horrors of humanity, where we haven't outgrown thoughts that war is glorious and wonderful and a "useful tool for foreign policy" rather than "our best attempts to create hell on earth". And I'll say a prayer for all people in harms way, and hope they see their way through the danger. I'll give thanks to all who've put themselves in harms way to protect others, and honor their sacrifice.

And I'll hope that someday, someday soon, people see a man like Bush for what he really is... the cause of the type of suffering that we're supposed to remember, and forswear, on days like today.

To me, the saddest Memorial Day news came not from the battlefield, but from the home front: Cindy Sheehan calls it quits.

That it was her supposed allies on the "liberal" left, and not her expected enemies on the right, who she feels chewed her up and spit her out says a lot about the state of war politics in our times, and none of it good.
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