On Memorial Day we’re supposed to recall the people in battle who suffer and fall. Corollary we insist that human descent, from the plains of Versailles to the rivers of Ghent, is all for the best. Now I won’t sing that bombing has no good effect (if you ignore the lives and the cities all wrecked) but I also won’t crank up the anthem refrain that no death is in vain, no death is in vain! Today, as we rest, we forget the rest. In parades we fete gross, not net.
In other respects our remembrance is skewed; while we swear that from now we’ll never be rude to detainees who will not be moved to a trial. Now we’ll put aside torture and ask with a smile. That’s what we were told in the years gone behind; we might ask what prevents waterboarding rewind when it’s all kept a secret and boxed in the dark. When memories dredged up are uncomfortably stark, we look forward, not back. The future is soothingly bare. And if we don’t look at our Schrodinger’s past, is it there?