On my way into the local supermarket a couple of days ago I passed a solitary, elderly white man offering something for sale (I didn’t look closely) in connection with Memorial Day. I looked at his face as I passed, and there was something about his wistful, sad expression that affected me. I thought to myself that on my way out of the store I should stop and talk to him. Unfortunately, when I came out about an hour later, he was gone.
This little experience has gotten me thinking about Memorial Day in a way I rarely do. Growing up during the Vietnam War when Memorial Day was used by war supporters to rally support for it, I’ve always looked upon it as not my holiday. If I had a parent, brother or sister or a close friend who had died in that war, or any war, it might be different, but fortunately for me, that’s not the case.
But this year I am consciously remembering these people this Memorial Day:
-those young men and women who went to war and, while in it, came to realize it was not something they should be supporting and, sooner or later, took action to end it. This was particularly the case for Vietnam and Iraq war veterans, wars that never should have started, never should have been waged;
-people like Chelsea Manning who has suffered, and continues to suffer, because of courageous action to expose the truth about the terrible inhumanity of war;
-the Vietnam veterans I was in prison with in 1971, me for draft resistance, them for something else, who were struggling with the emotional and psychological wounds of their war experience;
-my uncle Victor, who fought in World War II and who never talked about it, according to his brother, my father;
-all those who fought in war not out of a desire to rule over and conquer others but because they had been taught that war was necessary to accomplish something positive. The fact that most wars the US has been involved with since the late 1800’s, World War II the biggest exception, have been about support of US corporate and imperial interests doesn’t mean that all, or most, who fought were imperialists. “Honor the warrior, not the war,” is what it says on an Iraq Veterans Against the War t-shirt I have;
-the children, the innocent children, who are always victims of war;
-the millions of Syrians and Yemenis who are suffering right now because of unjust, terrible, destructive wars and the failure of efforts to end them, as well as those in other countries of the Global South and here in the USA who are suffering because so much money is put into militarism and weapons rather than for human and environmental needs.
It’s sobering to remember all of this.
So much violence, militarism, war and suffering that need not be in this world! And yet there are people all over the world fighting against the systems that perpetuate these things. Most people don’t want war; they want a world at peace where all are treated fairly.
Let’s not just remember this weekend those who died in war; let’s also remember those who died organizing, working, acting, struggling to end it. Peacemakers, presente!
Ted Glick resisted the Vietnam war in the 60’s and 70’s and has been a progressive activist, organizer and writer ever since. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.