The Debt of Memorial Day

War is ugly. War is dirty. War is perhaps the single most horrifying event one could participate in. And yet despite all of that, there are those who have been compelled, for a variety of reasons (duty, honor, peer pressure, guilt, pragmatism, or in the case of the draft, direct threat) to suppress all natural human instinct and jump headfirst into that icy blackness of omnipresent death that is war. Those that survived we honor as veterans, those less fortunate we honor on Memorial Day. And how should we most appropriately honor the fallen? With parades? With solemn speeches? That may indeed seem the most respectful, but for the vast majority of Americans that is followed more in the breach than in the observance. In fact, most Americans honor those fallen in war in the most appropriate manner possible: living and loving. Memorial Day is spent with family, loved ones and friends. It is a brief respite to take the time we often don’t have to do the things that should matter most. This is how we honor them, by living our lives to the fullest, by doing that which if they were here they would also be doing. I can’t imagine they would want anything less.

However, their sacrifice has put us in their debt. This debt is an obligation not to them, but rather to those presently in the armed services. We have an obligation to recognize the pattern of behavior of the political class who is forever embroiling us in futile and senseless wars that serve no defensive interests of the United States (World War I, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I and II and countless skirmishes (Grenada, really?) Once their saber rattling is recognized, it must be silenced, as it was last fall when those in power were hell bent on sending US troops to Syria, and with one united voice the people told them NO! No more war! No more shall our loved ones be used as mere pawns as the US attempts to widen its scope of global hegemony. No more shall children grow up without a father or mother, sacrificed as they were upon the altar, not of defense, but that of blind patriotic fervor. No more shall innocent men, women and children be slaughtered by US weaponry in an attempt to take out a token “bad guy” in a sea of innocence.

Most who have chosen to serve this country militarily do so because they have an honest desire to DEFEND this country from external attack. But consider this: a truly unprovoked attack has never occurred in US history (save for the War of Independence). If this country prosecuted purely defensive wars, the US military would be more like the Maytag repairman than Rambo. And while the aphorism “the best defense is a good offense” may be apt in sports, it is a hideous affront to morality when employed militarily. But it is this prevention mindset that has caused far more warfare than it could have ever foiled. US meddling in the affairs of others has created numerous enemies where none existed before. That is the paradox of preemptive war; you cause the very thing you were trying to avoid.

So this Memorial Day let us all pledge that we will honor the dead by taking up the mantle of responsibility they have left for us. We shall charge forth boldly against those who would seek to act antagonistically toward other countries in the hope of provoking a response that will justify a call to arms. We the people can prevent war, by obstructing those who would foment war from gaining power. And if we can do that, then perhaps one day there shall be no need for a Memorial Day.