Should Memorial Day be mandatory?

Interesting piece in today’s NYTimes by someone who thinks we aren’t all being sufficiently honoring of the nation’s war dead on Memorial Day (click!) here.

He ends up with an idea from  Robert Heinlein’s book “Starship Troopers” in which citizenship has to be earned, and says maybe it’s time we did that in the US so people will pay proper respects.

You can read the piece yourself. I just have a couple of thoughts:

This writer, a fighter pilot, says exortations to remember the falled military of our nation on Memorial Day are not having the desired effect. From what I can see, every cemetery is filled with flowers and there are lots of memorial services all over.

Obviously this is not sufficient, but he does not say what would be.

What does he want — A mandatory requirement that all people in America stand with their hands over their hearts, face Boston Harbor, and weep visibly for five minutes? A national day of wearing sackcloth and ashes?

OK, that sounds snarky, but what?

How does this person know what is in people’s hearts? Maybe they did go to the cemetery, spend an hour looking at flags, got tired and went home and cracked a brew and threw some dogs on the grill. If the only time on Memorial Day you see them is when they’re drinking that brew, don’t make assumptions.

There’s a bigger narrative at work here, though — I see it in the “Don’t forget who fought to give you that freedom of the press” jibe that I get occasionally from military types who don’t like something I’ve written.

There’s an unspoken threat in that statement that ”I have a gun that defends your right to be a jerk. Better hope I don’t decide to point it at you.”

Basically, this writer thinks he’s better than the rest of us because he’s been to war and we haven’t. This writer’s proposal that citizenship be earned by service harkens to this: We paid the price, we get to make the decisions.

This tosses the whole idea of democracy out on its ear, of course, and does a big number on that silly notion of civilian control of the military that our Founding Fathers so feared.

But who cares what Ben Franklin and Tommy Jefferson (neither one a veteran) thinks? This is American greatness we’re talking about here.

This writer, like many, bemoans that not enough Americans have “skin in the game” of defending the country, and he’s right, but whose fault is that?

This writer needs to direct his ire directly at those who declined to ask Americans for that skin.

After 2001 and the Twin Towers, Americans everywhere were asking their elected leaders ”Oh leaders, what shall we do, our nation calls!” and our leaders were telling them right back “Oh Americans, go shopping!”

No, seriously, that is what George Bush told us to do. He could have asked for, and gotten, war taxes, volunteers, gassless Fridays, whatever he wanted.

He didn’t ask. ”Go shopping” he said. “If you stay home the terrorists win.”

So we went shopping and inflated a housing bubble that made Bush look as if he were in charge of a really great economy, but it deflated just a tad too soon and here we are.

We know why Americans were’t asked to do more for the current wars: They wouldn’t have done it.

Not because Americans aren’t willing to sacrifice, and not because they aren’t willing to defend their country, but because if they had been asked to do both for these wars they would have, for the most part, seen these wars as the foreign enterprises for oil they are, not defending the country.

We went along because when your job to help your country is to spend an afternoon at Neimann Marcus trying on suits, you’re not real skeptical of why are being asked to do it.

If your job is to send your first born off to get his head blown off, you pay a lot more attention.

This writer dismisses the draft, and war taxes, but maybe we ought to try those before we do away with Democracy and make it a meritocracy where (what a conicidence!) guys like this writer just happen to qualify for leadership positions.

If Americans aren’t willing to pay a war tax, or have a draft that sends their kids off to die whether they want to or not, then it is time to end the war, not trash what makes America what it is.

When members of the military — and remember, they have guns! — start saying that they’re the only ones qualified to lead the nation, you can kiss Democracy good bye.

 

 

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15 Responses to Should Memorial Day be mandatory?

  1. laytonian says:

    Well-said.
    The vets I know, aren’t “professional vets”. They don’t wear vet hats, vet pins, wave flags, or ride Vet Harleys.
    They are honored all year; not just on a special day.
    So it should be.

    The PROBLEM, I believe, is just the opposite of what Henley whines about. When we make a special holiday for remembrance, it becomes just that: a holiday.

    Those of us who have vets in our lives, don’t wait for a special day. We honor them in the manner each has chosen, whether it be a flag, a photo, a card, or a special pie.

    We are reminded of war on a daily basis, and the sacrifices. Only the shallow wait for the “special holiday”.

  2. Myth Buster says:

    9/11 was an inside job, the 1000 page Patriot Act was not written in 2 weeks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were pre-planned. 9/11 was written of in Project for a New American Century by the men who made $2.3 Trillion from the event.
    Memorial Day was originated by mothers tired of sending their sons to needless wars.
    Make it mandatory? How about getting rid of useless holidays like Memorial Day, Mother’s Day “Mothering Sunday”, Father’s Day “Great Sky Father’s Day” Christmas “Natalis Solis Invicti”, and Easter (Eostre).
    Now Flag Day is a real winner, our first Flag had a Pine Tree on it with “An Appeal to Heaven”, our second flag had a Serpent with “Don’t Tread on Me”; Francis Scott Key wrote the National Anthem to an Irish Drinking Song “Anachreon in Heaven”. How about we ditch that one too along with the Nazi Pledge of Allegiance.

  3. Brent Glines says:

    Charles said, “What does he want — A mandatory requirement that all people in America stand with their hands over their hearts, face Boston Harbor, and weep visibly for five minutes?”

    It’s OK for you to disagree with the author of the article, Charles, but do you have to lie about it? Show me where he says anything close to this.

    At most, he says, “I suspect that the idea of earning American citizenship is one that will strike a deep chord within most of us.” Most Americans do take their citizenship for granted. Most couldn’t pass the simple civics test we require naturalized applicants for citizenship to pass.

    I think what the author is really trying so say is that IF people had to earn our citizenship, IF they actually had skin in the game, and IF actual sacrifice was involved, people would appreciate and respect their citizenship more. In fact, that is EXACTLY what his final paragraph states? Congratulations on failing your reading comprehension test, Charles.

    I think the author has a point. Certainly, if there were such a requirement, there would be fewer jerks like you around.

    • willbike says:

      “It’s OK for you to disagree with the author of the article, Charles, but do you have to lie about it? Show me where he says anything close to this.”

      Show me where Charles says that he said anything close to that. Congratulations on failing your reading comprehension test, Brent. You big, mean, scary message board bully you.

      • Sally says:

        charles just wants comments and a argument.

        • Bob Becker says:

          Well, S., provoking thought and discussion is sort of what columnists are paid to do. If his columns didn’t sometimes draw disagreement and discussion, he wouldn’t be doing his job very well.

      • Brent Glines says:

        Willbike said, “Show me where Charles says that he said anything close to that.”

        OK. Charles said, “He ends up with an idea from Robert Heinlein’s book “Starship Troopers” in which citizenship has to be earned, and says maybe it’s time we did that in the US so people will pay proper respects.”

        He did NOT say maybe it’s time we did that. That, in my opinion, is a lie. What Mr. Hensley actually said was, “if we lived in such a meritocracy there would be no need to set aside a special holiday to honor our war dead. Everyday would be Memorial Day.”

        It is a fine distinction, perhaps, but even so, when someone says, “If something were the case,” that is NOT the same as saying, “Maybe we should make it the case.”

        For example, I could say, “If taxes are raised, that might have a negative impact on the economy.” That does NOT imply that maybe I hope we raise taxes. Quite the contrary.

        So, with respect to reading comprehension test failures, both you and Charles need to pay a bit closer attention to your reading.

  4. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Don’t we have enough requirements in this society? I’m tired of being told how to act, how to think, whatever. Too many people yell “we’re losing our freedom” in one breath and then preach mandatory patriotic rituals in the next.

    I agree with those who have pointed out that folks recognize military sacrifices and veterans in their own way. Doing things their own way — that’s a recognition of our freedoms right there.

    • Brent Glines says:

      Mark, as I tried to point out to Charles, the author of the article is not suggesting ‘mandatory patriotic ritural’. Has there been a sudden unexpected outbreak of reading incomprehension at SE today?

      His point is that IF more sacrifice was required for citizenship, THEN citizenship would be more highly valued. He does NOT call for any measures to impose any such requirements.

      Clear?

      • Mark Shenefelt says:

        I was referring to your comment, not the guy’s column. You’re fantasizing about a citizenship acid test to run out people you don’t agree with.

  5. Elmer says:

    From my perspective, all this person is trying to do is to remind people what Memorial Day is really about — similar to reminding people what Christmas is really about. Memorial Day to this person has developed into simply another holiday without many Americans remembering why there’s a Memorial Day. I didn’t feel like he was “whining” nor demanding “mandatory requirement that all people in America stand with their hands over their hearts, face Boston Harbor, and weep visibly for five minutes? A national day of wearing sackcloth and ashes?” I don’t understand why you seem to feel like you have to be disrespectful for someone else you don’t agree with.

  6. Myth Buster says:

    Memorial Day has nothing to do with US Citizenship; it has to do with US Citizens dying in War. Requirements for US President and VP as Commanders in Chief of the Armed Forces is acquired by Natural Birth, not by any action on the part of the person.
    Jus Solis: Birthplace Citizenship and Jus Sanguinis: Citizenship by parent’s blood is a Constitutional requirement.
    No matter how one feels about this, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio do not meed these criteria.
    Sending America’s most vital young citizens to fight illegal wars of aggression is a travesty.
    Mitt Romney will attend a $2500/plate fundraiser headlined by Henry Kissinger on July 12, 2012. Henry said this of our nation’s military “Soldiers are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR5p09NTrkgAug 12, 2011 – 3 min – Uploaded by Tressco
    Henry Kissinger – “Military Men Are Just Dumb, Stupid Animals To Be Used As Pawns In Foreign Policy …

  7. laytonian says:

    No, Mr Glines.
    The author clearly stated this: “The author, Robert Heinlein, envisioned a society where citizenship was earned through public service, not simply given as a birthright ….. I suspect that the idea of earning American citizenship is one that will strike a deep chord within most of us. That chord may be either alarm or elation. Even discussing such an idea requires that we redefine what it means to be a patriot. One thing is for sure — if we lived in such a meritocracy there would be no need to set aside a special holiday to honor our war dead. Everyday would be Memorial Day.”

    Sounds like Hensley didn’t get enough pats on the back OR believe this his own service was worthy.

    Real vets seldom think of themselves as heroes. They were on the inside, knowing what they were really fighting for/against.

  8. Decider says:

    Meritocracy means. “All animals are equal except some animals are MORE equal than others.”
    ANY kind of bahavior that becomes sanctioned as “patriotic” becomes a danger in a FREE society, and is the first step toward regimented then controlled behavior!

  9. Brent Glines says:

    “author, Robert Heinlein, envisioned a society where citizenship was earned through public service, not simply given as a birthright…”

    That is an accurate description of a feature of Heinlein’s novel, but it is not what the author of the article suggested. Try to separate fact from fiction, please.

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