It’s Memorial Day. Once again, I find myself conflicted as I read the messages and see the tweets and watch the news.
I am an anti-war liberal. A progressive who believes that war is never the answer. I am a bleeding heart liberal.
I came of age during the Viet Nam war, when my brother and my older cousins and dozens of their friends waited every year to find out their number in the annual draft lottery. I came of age during the years when progressives fought against that war by protesting against the soldiers who had to fight it.
Now, from the vantage point of full adulthood, I don’t understand why a stance against an undeclared war turned into anger at the soldiers who were drafted against their will to fight it. Now I am ashamed to have supported that view and that action, even though I was only a young teen.
Since then, I have learned to study our wars. I have read about our oldest wars, going all the way back to King Phillip’s War in the seventeenth century. I have read about the Seven Years War in the mid 1700’s.
Of course, I have also read about and studied the most deadly, most horrific, most terrible war in our history. The American Civil War was so awful and so damaging that it’s impact is still felt today across the Southern United States.
I have never fought for my country. I have never been a soldier. None of my children have fought.
So I hesitate, I have always hesitated, to speak up about war. But this year feels different for some reason. This year feels more important.
As I watch our impulsive, narcissistic, supremely self-absorbed President posturing about possible nuclear war, I find myself compelled to speak out.
Did you know that more than a million Americans have died in war during our very short lifespan? Did you know that this country has been at war for 93% of our history?
And even though we have been at war almost without a pause, we have an army that is now made up solely of volunteers. We have a military that is at war across the globe, even though no war has been declared by our Congress since 1942.
So here I am. Coming into Memorial Day Weekend.
I choose to honor, respect and value the million Americans who have given their lives for this country. I choose to honor them by demanding that those who are in power step up and do what is right. To Congress I say, either declare war or bring our young soldiers home NOW. To our President I say, either go to war or declare that we are at peace. And bring our soldiers home NOW.
To those who willingly take up arms for our country I say, be fierce. Be demanding. Make those who send you to your possible deaths explain to you WHY you are fighting. And do not accept the tired, worn, useless platitudes about “defending our freedom” or “protecting the homeland.” You are fighting in places that are so far from our homeland that many of us don’t even know what continent you are on. No one is threatening our shores with imminent invasion.
If you are fighting for oil, they should tell you that. If you are fighting for pipeline rights, you should know it. If you are fighting to maintain American control of foreign soil, you should know that too.
I honor your courage. I honor your sacrifice.
I vow to work as hard as I can for as long as I can to keep you safe, to let you stay at home protecting OUR shores.
Memorial Day is a day for all of us to commit to stopping our endless wars. It is a day for us to remember all of those who have died in service to our military. But it’s also a day for us to demand honesty and openness from that military and it’s leaders.
A flag on your grave is not enough.
On this Memorial Day, I vow to honor our million war dead by working to stop those terrible numbers from rising.