Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, May 30, 2011


As I was paying for my lunch on Friday, the clerk said "Happy Memorial Day!" I objected that Memorial Day is not supposed to be about happiness. It was originally, as the name makes clear, supposed to be a day to remember the casualties of war, but in most communities it has become a celebration of militant nationalism and an affirmation of war. Bands play stirring patriotic tunes, people line the streets waving flags, and soldiers march by displaying weapons. When I was a child, in fact, they used to drive tanks down the main street of Branford, Connecticut. I was actually kicked out of my high school marching band for wearing a black arm band in the parade -- making the apparently politically offensive point that we were supposed to be mourning, not celebrating.

Similarly, I do everything in my power to avoid celebrating Christmas. It's not because I am not a Christian. I would honor the sentiments of friends and family, even if I didn't share them, but Christmas is not a religious holiday at all. It is a grotesque celebration of materialism, a massive orgy of buying and possessing stuff, most of which the people who end up with it don't actually want or need. Christmas is essential to the economic system, but it is the precise opposite of any message I read in the gospels.

So no, I'm not having a happy Memorial Day. Nobody is paying any attention, but the flag covered boxes are still landing at Dover AFB. Of course it's a lot worse for the people who live in the countries where those young Americans are getting killed. It isn't glorious, it isn't honorable, it isn't even a necessary evil. It's just evil.

1 comment:

C. Corax said...

Fighter jets were roaring over the house this morning. I wondered how much jet fuel was being needlessly burned, adding to record carbon emissions and record national deficit. I could think of a thousand better uses for that money.