They call it Memorial Day, but the holiday seems more about forgetting than it is about remembering. Maybe we ought to call it Selective Memory Day.
Propaganda for the pro-war holiday spills over into the weeks surrounding the actual day itself. I just got done listening to a Memorial Day follow-up story from National Public Radio about a man NPR called a “hero” – for shooting dead over 160 people. The consequences of calling praising snipers as heroes weren’t discussed by NPR, though.
Kill enough people, and you become heroic?
That was what the U.S. military taught sniper John Allen Muhammed, who ended up using his military skills to target people going about their daily business, shooting them simply because he could.
The U.S. military also instructed Christopher Dorner, who killed two police officers and two civilians earlier this year, and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, in the methods of murder. These soldiers weren’t remembered on Memorial Day, however, because they don’t fit our national mythology of war.
Memorial Day observances didn’t not just forget the attitude of cruel violence that’s brought back home from the battlefield. Also forgotten were the financial costs. The popularity of war leads to irrational and unsustainable military spending, such as Barack Obama’s decision to spend billions of dollars on a new generation of American nuclear weapons to be placed in Europe, at a time when food stamps and Head Start educational programs are being savagely cut.
It’s never mentioned in Memorial Day speeches that it was the American military that unleashed the curse of nuclear weapons upon the world. The U.S. military arrogantly thought that it could keep the secret all to itself, but the secret wasn’t kept for long. It’s because of the sloppy work of our own war machine that there are now nuclear weapons in Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, China…
China. Oh yes, China. The story didn’t quite come out in time for this year’s observances, but I wonder if anyone speaking on Memorial Day 2014 will dare to remind audiences that the incompetence of military security allowed Chinese hackers to gain access to plans for many of the USA’s most expensive weapons systems. The American people have paid hundreds of billions of dollars to develop and produce these machines, which the Chinese military can now manufacture as well, at a fraction of the cost.
Next year, in the midst of the parades and fireworks and teary speeches, let’s take a minute to remember this: War has brought us more trouble than triumph, and the military has brought us more debt than defense.