Memorial Day

Edward Snowden should be remembered favorably this Memorial Day. ‘Should be’, but probably won’t be in most precincts. Nonetheless, I watched this interview as my way to meditate on the meaning of this day.

I have been out of town for several days and have been out of touch with the news. I read this morning that the Senate under Mitch McConnell is trying (or will be trying) to restore the legal power of the NSA to do bulk-collection of telephone data, but the original enabling legislation will expire over the Congressional recess.  Opponents of McConnell’s efforts are described as ‘cautiously optimistic’.

We’ll see.  Optimism is not my strong suit.  The summary of Ray McGovern’s piece over at Firedoglake read something like “Remember the Fallen…They Were Pushed”. That pretty well summarizes how I feel.  If this day is to be about reflection and catharsis, I have trouble seeing much evidence of it. We will have the video-clips of the obligatory playing of taps and the planting of flags, and President XYZ placing a wreath in Arlington, then on to the hamburgers and beer.  I am confident veterans and their families  take the day a lot more seriously and no less ceremoniously.  On the other hand, it reminds me of going to church as a child. At church, there was an enormous amount of ceremony and hours worth of pious talk, but it pretty well evaporated by lunch time and was gone entirely by the opening kick-off the NFL game of the week.

If there is one thing we Americans can do it is trivialize anything on an industrial scale.  We aren’t the only ones mind you, but we seem to have it down to a science. Or art.  This weekend I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw a work by a Polish artist named Piotr Uklański. The work was The Nazis. It consisted of  117 promotional Hollywood studio-stills of different famous actors in roles where they wore Nazi uniforms—Charles Bronson, Christopher Plummer, Clint Eastwood—you name one, he was up there. The posters were stacked onto a single wall panel perhaps twelve feet wide by twenty feet high. It was funny and it was awful. I believe the artist’s critique might be summarized “So Who Is Trivializing Evil On An Industrial Scale Now?”

I suppose my point of view casts a pall over some of the most hopeful things Edward Snowden says.  He says he wants the “press” to decide what the evidence points toward (as if the Press actually would). He wants the American People to decide what they need to do about the evidence of the Security State apparatus we have built. He believes public sentiment is turning in favor of reigning it in.

On this Memorial Day, as much as I would like to share Snowden’s hopefulness, I do not.  The only thing I do agree with is his assessment about a fair trial should he ever return to the USA.

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  • I will take seriously the position of the media and politicians when they start paying the troops enough they don’t need food stamps, when they shape up the VA services, when they fund support for treating PTSD and MST, end homelessness and unemployment. And when they quit starting wars just to make money over a lot of bodies, American and foreign, military and civilian.
    Until then, Memorial Day and Veterans Day are just propaganda.

    • Remembrance is an odd commodity. My son turned 15 yesterday on Memorial Day and he was telling me how exams are starting next week at high school. “Which subjects?”, I ask. He says world history will be among the first, but the class still hasn’t finished the unit they’re on. “What’s left?”, I ask. “We still have to get past World War II and come to the present.”

      A week. How many wars? How much change? Are you friggin’ serious?

      Coupled with the knowledge that colleges are now graduating the first class of Millennials and they now outnumber the Baby Boomers (according to CBS News this evening), I think any hope of people (not just politicians) remembering the context of conflict and service is well-nigh gone.

      Propaganda indeed. It couldn’t be anything but that.

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