Archive for the ‘Memorial Day’ Category

Memorial Day – in the Words of Howard Zinn

No one can really express these thoughts I have better than Howard Zinn. So I defer to him, a reprint of an earlier editorial of his that still rings true.

Published on June 2, 1976 in the Boston Globe (from the Zinn Reader)
Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?
by Howard Zinn
Memorial Day will be celebrated … by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments. In 1974, I was invited by Tom Winship, the editor of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. I did that for about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection with that year’s Memorial Day. After it appeared, my column was canceled.

* * * * *

Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.

It will also be celebrated by the display of flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking applause.

It will be celebrated by giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President.

There was a young woman in New Hampshire who refused to allow her husband, killed in Vietnam, to be given a military burial. She rejected the hollow ceremony ordered by those who sent him and 50,000 others to their deaths. Her courage should be cherished on Memorial Day. There were the B52 pilots who refused to fly those last vicious raids of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s war. Have any of the great universities, so quick to give honorary degrees to God-knows-whom, thought to honor those men at this Commencement time, on this Memorial Day?

No politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities, should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past wars he honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.

“The shell had his number on it. The blood ran into the ground…Where his chest ought to have been they pinned the Congressional Medal, the DSC, the Medaille Militaire, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, the Italian gold medal, The Vitutea Militara sent by Queen Marie of Rumania. All the Washingtonians brought flowers .. Woodrow Wilson brought a bouquet of poppies.”

Those are the concluding lines of John Dos Passos angry novel 1919. Let us honor him on Memorial Day.

And also Thoreau, who went to jail to protest the Mexican War.

And Mark Twain, who denounced our war against the Filipinos at the turn of the century.

And I.F. Stone, who virtually alone among newspaper editors exposed the fraud and brutality of the Korean War.

Let us honor Martin Luther King, who refused the enticements of the White House, and the cautions of associates, and thundered against the war in Vietnam.

Memorial Day should be a day for putting flowers on graves and planting trees. Also, for destroying the weapons of death that endanger us more than they protect us, that waste our resources and threaten our children and grandchildren.

On Memorial Day we should take note that, in the name of “defense,” our taxes have been used to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on a helicopter assault ship called “the biggest floating lemon,” which was accepted by the Navy although it had over 2,000 major defects at the time of its trial cruise.

Meanwhile, there is such a shortage of housing that millions live in dilapidated sections of our cities and millions more are forced to pay high rents or high interest rates on their mortgages. There’s 90 billion for the B1 bomber, but people don’t have money to pay hospital bills.

We must be practical, say those whose practicality has consisted of a war every generation. We mustn’t deplete our defenses. Say those who have depleted our youth, stolen our resources. In the end, it is living people, not corpses, creative energy, not destructive rage, which are our only real defense, not just against other governments trying to kill us, but against our own, also trying to kill us.

Let us not set out, this Memorial Day, on the same old drunken ride to death.


Memorial Monday

I published this last Memorial Day, and I thought I would add a few notes and some new links.

Memorial Day, 2013. We are still at war in Afghanistan. North Korea is making noise, and I’m not sure we are getting the full story. The Arab Spring is having interesting consequences, and we are yet to see it play out. More and more we hear about veterans’ benefits being cut. I watched the Memorial Day Concert on the Washington Mall last night and was once again angry at the needless loss of life and wounding of so many young people. Calling them Wounded Warriors (which they undoubtedly are) just sounds like a slogan for marketing. Call me a pessimist, but I see this title as one more strategy to pull as away from where it really counts: stopping wars altogether.

Thanks to Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, we are looking at the suffering made on the Homefront. They have done great work, acknowledging those who also serve. If you watched the audience shots last night, you saw the wounded women. We still have not recognized the role women have played in our wars.

I think about the endless years ahead for our wounded men and women. Couple that with cuts to benefits, and I get very angry. Saying “thank you” with a concert doesn’t help the suicide rate of veterans, even with an 800 number to call a crisis line. After wiping away the tears from the presentation by Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinese, I started wishing yet again for trials of George W and his cronies for crimes against humanity. I know “freedom isn’t free,” but there must be another way to peace.

Here are a few links I found for this year’s remembrance.

Remembering the Women Who Also Gave Their Lives

And a piece from the remarkable Howard Zinn: Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day? Thirty-seven years old and just as applicable – and controversial – today.

I miss you, Daddy – every day for 38 years. You were so young.
Memorial Day, 2012. It’s Memorial Day, and I always think about my dad, Eugene R. Lemke, who served in the Merchant Marine during World War 2. He lied about his age, as many young men did, in order to fight. He never said much, and I just have some pictures of his travels to the Mid-East and India. When he read Alistair MacLean’s HMS Ulysses, he admitted that he had been on the Archangel-Murmansk run. He got his GED after the war and picked up classes over the years in insurance. He died 37 years ago, in his 40’s. One year for Christmas, I sent money in his name to the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.

I’ve always remembered Memorial Day. I would be the only one standing when the flag went by. I would place flowers on graves. To me it’s always been about sacrifice, never about sales and picnics. I miss the parades – only one in Tucson, and that’s on the way west side of the city.

In the early 1070s my students in Hawaii wanted to celebrate a World Peace Day, which we set for April 28, 1972. The Pacific and Asian Affairs Council chapter worked for most of the year, with me taking care of scut work, based on what they wanted to do. I never had any idea I would get called a Communist so much, or be followed because of advocating for peace. Quite the eye-opener for naive me….who would have thought peace would be so controversial? Thirty-seven years later we’re still at war…. It’s a very strange world….

My father-in-law trained pilots in India to fly over the hump. Last year I read a book about the China-Burma theater that was an eye-opener. Talk about a theater of war that had no support, and so many untold stories of heroism. My mother’s second husband was in the Pacific with the First Cavalry, just ahead of MacArthur.  One of my good memories of him is taking me through the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia and talking about the campaigns. He was First Cav to his dying day at 92, this last November. My dad’s best friend was in a tank  in France. They’re all gone, and the stories are fading fast also.

This 70th anniversary of Bataan and Corregidor brought many stories back to us. Our veterans from World War II are dying off. And our new veterans are facing horrible injuries that would have killed them in earlier wars. They’re facing cut-backs in veteran’s benefits, problems with jobs, high suicide rates. War should never be the answer without exploring all options beforehand. And for those who served and who now choose to serve, we need to be there for them, regardless.

Having visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial, I found this extremely moving.

And finally, a quote (one of many from The 25 Best Reasons to Stop Sending Our Soldiers to War):

         “Make wars unprofitable and you make them impossible.” ~~A. Philip Randolph, leader in the civil rights and labor movements

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