Monday, May 28, 2007

Torn in two on Memorial Day

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to our country. It began during the Civil War when organized women's groups in several towns throughout the South decorated the graves of the Confederate war dead with flowers, wreaths and flags. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5th, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.
(from A Brief History of Memorial Day)

I think it helps to remember why I'm not working, today.

The butcher's bill in Iraq today stands at 3,731, in case you wondered.

There is a principle in recovery that anger is not something that folks like me deal well with, so we ought to avoid it. And then there is the famous quote from the movie Network, where people across the land start throwing their windows open and yelling, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

So I am torn, on this Memorial Day. How do you avoid anger, and yet face all the insanity in the world and not become outraged? Because (as the old line goes) if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention...

I guess I'm closer to the "mad as hell" end of the spectrum after watching several TV specials this last week. First was the marvelous special Celebrating Cronkite at 90. Seeing this show, and the integrity of Walter Cronkite (especially as he spoke out to the nation about the Vietnam war) reminded me yet again how we have been betrayed by the government and the media in our current war. This is how Cronkite ended that famous speech:
To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
See the full text of his on-air speech here. It's worth reading. It's also worth remembering that when Lyndon Johnson saw this broadcast, he was reported to have said, "That's it. If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

I gave thanks when former president Jimmy Carter spoke out as he did against the war; I was furious when people called on him to recant. Blind faith in a leader - any leader - is on the path to authoritarianism; blind faith in our current leader is, to my eye, errant stupidity. Don't you apologize for calling it how you see it, Mr. Carter.

And then there was Bill Moyers. I think that, as an exercise in patriotism, every person should go to watch Bill Moyers' PBS special report, Buying The War. It's available online, and it's 90 minutes of what I'd say is civic duty, to be honest. It confirms what so many of us felt, going into the war - that (despite all the claims) there was nothing to support it - it was all a setup. A setup, by the way, that's cost us more than $500 billion, with another $120 billion to come.

(And then you wonder why Republicans are so set on cutting funding for PBS...)

The high moral ground the Democrats had in their move to stop funding for the war without some kind of accountability came apart faster than a cheap suit last week, which also infuriated me. It's as if they detonated some kind of weapon in Washington, one that left all the buildings and left all the people but destroyed any moral fiber or resolve. It reminded me of two old bumperstickers -
With Republicans, it's man's inhumanity to man; with Democrats, it's the reverse.

We don't have a government. We have an auction.
And then the crowning blow was this little gem in the NY Times on May 24th. After Congress voted immense tax benefits for oil refiners to restore capacity at hurricane-damaged oil wells and refineries, it seems that the reason we are having such a gasoline shortage is because George Bush waved the biofuels flag in his State of the Union address. The article basically says that the oil industry is saying, "Well...if they're going to support that nonsense, why should we spend the money to fix our refineries and ease the gas crisis?"

Um...maybe because we already paid you to do it, morons.

And we're paying for you to do it again, with every nearly $4 gallon of gas we buy. And no one in the press is saying what we all have noticed: in October, when everyone wanted the country to support the current administration and their stupid buddies, gas was $2 a gallon. Now that Bush is being burned in effigy, oh, gee...we're getting raped at the gas pump.

Yeah, go ahead and tell me it's "market effects." Go over here and read a brief history about the Standard Oil Trust and monopoly. And then go ahead and try to tell me that when every gas station in the city responds in hours to "market pressure" by going up exactly the same amount, that it's not monopoly action. Right....

And $4-a-gallon gas is not hurting the fat-cats who are running this show, either. (It won't even cut them back to their last yacht.) Instead, it's hurting people like my sister and brother-in-law. Small-time, decent folk who can't hop in their own special jet and fly to their 1600-acre Texas retreat to get away from the nastiness of life in America.

Yes, I'm mad as hell. But getting out seems to help. Taking action, it seems, is part of the solution.

Which brings me back to Memorial Day, and commemorating those who have died.

In the Vietnam war, we at least had news coverage that had the testicular dimsensions necessary to show us the bodies - the coffins carrying the remains of lives snuffed out in that tragic conflict. They need to be seen, people - because these are real lives, and real promise for the future, which we are snuffing out to prop up oil company revenues. The deaths of these young men and women sure as hell aren't making the world any more secure - we surely can see that.

I believe in my country's armed forces too much to have them sacrificing their lives for this. We are spilling the blood of our nation's youth - and for what? For this media-supported mockery of democracy?

Nope - for me, there is only one answer.

Support our troops - bring 'em home alive. Now.

And then throw out the bastards who sent 'em over there in the first place.

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