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
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
Franklin Lamb
Hezbollah Claims a 20-Seat Parliamentary Majority
William Loren Katz
Oliver Law, the Lincoln Brigade’s Black Commander
Ralph Nader
The Constitution and the Lawmen are Coming for Trump—He Laughs!
Tom Clifford
Mexico ’70 Sets the Goal for World Cup 
David Swanson
What Else Canadians Should Be Sorry For — Besides Burning the White House
Andy Piascik
Jane LaTour: 50+ Years in the Labor Movement (And Still Going)
Jill Richardson
Pruitt’s Abuse of Our Environment is Far More Dangerous Than His Abuse of Taxpayer Money
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
Pardons Aren’t Policy
Daniel Warner
To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer
Raouf Halaby
Talking Heads A’Talking Nonsense
Julian Vigo
On the Smearing of Jordan Peterson: On Dialogue and Listening
Larry Everest
A Week of Rachel Maddow…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ronald Reagan
David Yearsley
Hereditary: Where Things are Not What They Sound Like
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail