Monday, May 30, 2011

A Closer Look at Memorial Day

  Memorial Day has never meant that much to me. I don't know any really patriotic people. And I don't know anyone who makes a big deal about being a veteran or anything like that. For me, for the aforementioned reasons, Memorial Day has pretty much just been another day off from school and/or work. But it does mean a lot to a lot of people. According to Wikipedia, it began after the Civil War to honor the Union soldiers who had died during the war, and eventually came to be a day to remember all those who served in the armed forces and died in the wars that our country has seen over the years.
    But patriotism has its place, and so today, I think I'll pontificate a bit about why this shouldn't just be another day.
    Part of remembering the past is to help change things and make them better for the future. So, in that respect, remembering everyone that died during the wars of the past century, two World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, and still going--Afghanistan and Iraq--(plus any others that my limited 20th century US history education has not made me aware of) is not only about remembering those who sacrificed their lives for their country, but trying to make it so that that sacrifice is not necessary in the future.
    Let's all laugh at the pacifist who wants world peace and an end to all wars. Done yet? Ok, I'll go on.
    Wars are ugly and expensive and they kill people, people you may know. And yes, it would be nice if we could solve things with diplomacy and words instead of machine guns and bombs. But as much as humanity wants to keep things civil, and remain entitled to call itself humanity, we continue to take the easy way out. Yes, war is the easy way out. Talking is hard. It takes time. And we may have to come back and say what we want to say or change what we want to say several times, or dozens of times, before we get it right. (Wars have a nasty habit of enduring and taking a lot longer than intended, too, but for some reason, people continue to overlook that detail when comparing it to diplomacy...)
    People think talking doesn't work because many times, people lie or go back on their word. And many other times, people don't even want to listen to each other. Not wanting to listen makes diplomacy pretty difficult. But taking a long time trying to talk and be heard is a better alternative, a more human alternative, to giving up and just sending a bunch of people over to an unfamiliar place and telling them to shoot people.
    So, Memorial Day ought to be not only a day of remembrance, but a day of hope. Hope that mankind can learn to man up and solve its problems without that kind of violence that makes days like Memorial Day necessary.
Peace, love, and bean sprouts.

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