Thoughts on Memorial Day

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

First and foremost, to those of you who are “celebrating” this day in remembrance of a loved one, on behalf of the DCW team, thank you for your sacrifice, our sympathies for your loss. You can see the full history of the day here.

According to “history” this year marks the 50th anniversary of American troops in Vietnam. Revisionist history sets the date for the first forays in the late 1950's, but still, it's been a half century. A lot of good men and women died in that theatre, as did many from the Revolutionary War through wars fought today. The interesting fact about the current dying is that more soldiers are committing suicide than are dying in battle. This has been true for the past several years. This is a horrorible situation, and attributable not just to the war conditions themselves, but to the lack of support our troops are receiving when they return from multiple deployments with both physical and psychological scars. 

To a certain extent, the Afghan War, and the troops remaining in Iraq, fly under the radar to most of America as the total number of soldiers comprises less than 1% of the population. The war is something we may well disagree with, but the war itself is an abstraction. The draft ended in 1973, but for most Boomers and those older, we remember the annual Vietnam lotteries. We ALL knew soldiers: they were our fathers and uncles who served in WW2 and Korea, our brothers, sisters and friends who served in Vietnam. Nowadays, most Americans do not know a single person who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

And so we forget the sacrifice of not only those who serve, but their families who struggle with limited pay and benefits (remember, many military families legitimately get food stamps.) It was just a few years ago that Walter Reed Hospital closed several buildings due to mold and disrepair, before shutting down completely last year. There are tens of thousands of vets awaiting medical care, and for those who are “healthy” there is massive unemployment, at around 20%. 

As a country, we should be ashamed of the situation facing our returning military men and women. We dishonour them not only directly in terms of a lack of jobs, education and services, but also in terms of many the people we have elected the past few years. 

Blood has been spilled on our soil going back to the 1700's so that America could be free. “Free” does not include union bashing, plutocracy, theocracy nor the cessation of voting rights and women's rights, nor the protection of the old, sick and poor. Those are the things we fought for over 200 years, the things we are ostensibly fighting for now in Asia: freedom from plutocracy and theocracy, expanded rights for minorities, women and workers, the ability for the greatest country on earth to fight for ALL Americans, not just the rich white guys.

As you place that flag on your house today, and again on July 4th, as you watch the parades, perhaps visit a cemetery for someone you lost, think about what you can do this year to honour the troops and what they fought for: America moving forward, not taking a giant leap back. Commit now to helping with GOTV for next week's special election in Wisconsin and the California jungle primary. Commit to helping with voter registration over the summer, complete with all the Voter ID insanity. Commit to working for candidates who will honour all America. 

Remember that today, you're outside grilling, or shopping, or playing in the park because of the troops who have made America as safe as it is. Commit to doing your part for those troops, and their children.