Thursday, June 9, 2011

Criticism of Memorial Day


Memorial Day is the bane of my existence. Seriously, I can think of few days that I despise more. Tomorrow, my family will take me, as they do every year, to Ft. Custer National Cemetery where an excessively long service will be held for the holiday. This service essentially alternates between over-emotional sentiment and mental handjobs about what a wonderful country we happen to live in.

Why do I so detest this?

First of all, to most people you talk to in America, the mere questioning of the sacredness of this holiday is branded as "disrespectful". That alone is enough to make my blood boil. No belief or practice should EVER be considered above or beyond question. Speaking objectively, as a person who simply is not swayed by patriotism, I think there's a lot wrong with how we celebrate Memorial Day. If people took the emotional wool off of their eyes for a moment, they too might see it. Yet most of us choose not to look at this tradition critically and shun those who do. Thus, I feel the same way about this holiday as I do about dogmatic religion.

Secondly, I dislike "soldier worship". Now before you start passing judgement (though you probably already have) I have nothing personal against soldiers. I cannot begin to tell you how annoying it is to hear people whine when someone dares assert that being in the military is no more virtuous than any other profession. Certainly, the military is no easy job and soldiers are important members of society. I feel the same way about doctors, firemen, police officers, teachers, etc. All of these people are incredibly important and often admirable. Even so, we mustn't forget that they are still PEOPLE. Perhaps I'm a downer, but my definition of what a hero is is rather limited. I don't think that donning a uniform or carrying a title is enough to make one a hero. One who dies saving a wounded comrade is a hero, for sure. But not every soldier has done so and not all who have done so are soldiers. Don't get me wrong, both of my grandfathers were in the military and I certainly love them and respect their choices. However, I would feel the same way if they had been garbage men. The way we put our military up on a pedestal disturbs me. Why do we honor soldiers who die fighting overseas, but not doctors, reporters, philanthropists, etc. who meet similar fates? Again, it's disturbing to me that, of all the sacrifices made to keep the nation together, the ones we value the most are the ones resulting from war...

On a related note, while we Americans are over here patting ourselves on the back for being awesome, what happens to the troops on the other side? You know, the men and women that our soldiers kill? Or have we forgotten that our side kills people too? Believe it or not, those "enemies" have families. Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children who will never meet their fathers or mothers. We conveniently choose to forget them and they fact that they too were sacrificed. Even during World War II, not all members of the German army were avowed Nazis. Most of them were probably just average people like you and I. And yet they are forgotten. Even more disturbing: what about the innocent civilians killed? Why forget them?

We already have a nationalistic holiday, Independence Day. I can almost understand that one. The founding of the country is something to be patriotic about. Death is not. A day when we're supposed to be honoring the deaths of soldiers is NOT a day to feel good about ourselves. If we're going to have a day like this, we should honor ALL of the sacrifices made, soldiers AND civilians. We should take this time to realize that the fact that such tragedies still take place means that we are still any thing BUT a perfect nation.

Ultimately, I wish people would stop taking life so lightly. I don't believe in a heaven or afterlife and there's no reason to believe in one. Each of us only gets one life. The fact that we take this precious gift away from each other so easily is frightening to me. We should be looking for ways to end wars, not celebrate them.

Again, I have nothing against soldiers or people's need to feel patriotic. I just feel that this patriotism is tragically misguided and you'd better believe I'm bitter about it.

    1 comment:

    Please be civil. :)