Yesterday was officially Memorial Day, even though we all had Monday off in observance. Well, actually, I worked,(yay for domestic workers)but on my way to and fro I had a chance to hear NPR’s coverage of the occasion. They had interviews with veterans and others about how they were spending the day.This was the first year I remember there being a perceptable tension between recognizing the sacrifice of the troops and enjoying the beginning of BBQ season. On facebook there were a rash of statuses’that said, if I may paraphrase, “while you are out there having fun, assholes, remember someone died so you could enjoy this day. Freedom isn’t free!” It smacked of Jesus’ dying for my sins, frankly. On the radio elderly respondents lamented the lack of respect they perceived from the American public.There was a defensiveness, almost a hostility that divided the world, at least in the minds of those speaking into those who do Memorial day right and the rest of us.
What bothered me was the generational blame game that seemed rear its’ head. These kids they said, they don’t appreciate what we did- they don’t know how it is. The multiple calls to reinstate the draft sounded to me like frat boys standing up for hazing. While I get the logic behind saying that if everyone had to go to War we wouldn’t be so keen on starting them, whose babies will unwillingly be slaughtered to prove your point? and who says we wanted to start them in the first place? As though we voted on these last few. Who are we talking about, exactly, when we say “they”? “They” who don’t care about history, who don’t spend Memorial day putting flags on gravestones, who should be drafted so they know what wars about. Which generation is in question? Is it mine? I definitely got dragged as a child to the cemetery. Our baby boomer parents, even the hippies, emphasized the enormity of the whole WAR proposition early enough in our minds.Besides,the gray haired men who sign the budgets and bills to pay for the war, they are my parents age at least and their own experiences with the draft hasn’t seemed to stop them from making war.
I know for sure the kids growing up right now have a grasp of the concept, because imagine that if you are a twelve year old girl and you live in America, you must take for granted that from the moment you were born, the United States has been at war.You grew up slowly piecing together the letters that graced the bumper of so many cars, “Support the Troops.” You see the most recent Katy Perry video, Part of Me, in which the message seems to be if you get mad at your boyfriend maybe the answer is to enlist in the Marines. You are the target demographic of the artist in question and you have just begun to be involved with boys romantically, in the sense that they tease you mercilessly. There is a strong possibility that this could be considered recruitment material.
As a six year old, you watched Elmo’s dad come home from being deployed for multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Since when does Elmo have parents?) The subject matter is both treacly and deep all at once. What does the future hold for you? Why do all the old people on public radio want to draft you? Why can’t they let you enjoy the sunshine outside? Do peaceful societies need these kinds of holidays at all? Yesterday I said a prayer for all the fallen soldiers and for the generation that hopefully won’t become them.