FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Memorial Day What?

Except for mourning family members and Boy Scouts loyally placing tiny flags on veterans’ gravestones hardly anyone knows anything about Memorial Day except that it’s a day off.  It’s the saddest of the military holidays, invented after the Civil War,  supposed to help us honor, or at least pause to remember, all the American dead from all  our wars.  That’s a lot of men and some women to remember going back, well, how far?

Big and small, we’ve “done” about 70 wars starting  with the mid-18th century so-called French and Indian wars  where George Washington was blooded and when we got our first taste of industrially massacring Native Americans mainly Ojibwas and Algonquins who sided with the French against our British masters.

Before penicillin it’s hard to get an accurate sum total figure of all those combat deaths because so many men died of disease and what was later called shell shock.

In our thirteen major and 60 or so “minor” wars let’s call a round figure of one and a half million dead.  Compared to the mass war slaughter in, say, Russia or China, that’s small potatoes, but big potatoes for us.  Our dead include wars you never heard, such the “Quasi War” with the French, the First Sumatran Expedition and Sheepeater Indian War plus, of course, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan.  A large number of U.S. wars were fought against our own Native Americans  (Modocs, Nez Perce, serial Seminole wars etc.) and other “colored” peoples in China, the Philippines, Haiti, central America, Mexico etc.

This doesn’t and shouldn’t take away from the genuine valor of so many American soldiers who fought, died, massacred others and were scalped in return.

Sadly or inspiringly, the truth is men and now women sometimes like to go to war.   To do one’s patriotic duty can be exciting as well as deadly.  You  get a sense of purpose and usefulness, possibly your own worth by being in uniform.  Personally, I liked being in the military including its chickenshit.

It’s also thrilling to watch war movies.  To “celebrate” Memorial Day, Turner Classics on TV is throwing shot and shell at us for a solid four day, 72-hour marathon starting Saturday.  The lineup includes 34 “classics” from the Civil War on.  Unless my eyes deceive me Turner is not showing, or avoiding, some fine anti-pro-war films, Renoir’s Grand Illusion and Kubrick’s Paths of Glory as well as All Quiet On The Western Front and Howard Hawks’s The Road To Glory (co-written by William Faulkner).  Turner’s bias is toward blood-and-guts “combat” stories, comedies and “touching stories of the families who wait at home”.

In the midst of all the testosterone-laden, gut-wrenching kill, kill, kill is some real quality that fails in the mission of sending men off to war.  If you can make your way past The Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes, there’s The Best Years of Our Lives, the Quaker-friendly Friendly Persuasion, Sidney Lumet’s brilliant exposure of military sadism in The Hill, the German-made Westfront 19l8, and John Huston’s butchered but decent The Red Badge of Courage.

Missing, thank heaven, are Ronald Reagan’s favorite Patton and Katherine Bigelow’s “ballsy” recruiting poster Hurt Locker.   But I’m sorry we won’t see Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima, a surprise masterpiece telling the battle from a Japanese point of view.

What’s not to love about war movies?  Vivid images of men shooting the crap out of each other heats my blood.  The gore of “this is how it is” is ultimately romantic and seductive.  Most war movies can’t help but call us to arms.   Rat tat tat to Black Watch bagpipe music.

Some movies, like Catch-22, M*A*S*H* and Tony Richardson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade, which also are not on Turner’s list, make an attempt to lower the testosterone level with some humor and cynicism.  But in the end it’s almost impossible to outshout Objective, Burma, The Dawn Patrol, Where Eagles Dare and Twelve O’Clock High.

It’s a dilemma.  How to pay tribute to the war dead while giving pause to young men and women who may be thinking about stepping into the dead soldiers’ combat boots?

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail