Archive for Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Truth missing from holiday

June 5, 2007


Memorial Day is a lovely day in America, a day of reunion in small towns, where people drive up to the cemetery on Monday morning and file in, old-timers carrying lawn chairs, and even if you've missed a few years, people will come over and shake your hand and thank you for coming. You don't have to dress up or support the war in Iraq. You just come, and afterwards there's hot dogs and potato salad at the Legion Club.

It's the last patriotic holiday that still means something, and it persists year after year despite the wooden rituals and leaden speeches. This year, in Central Park, an admiral with a chestful of ribbons gripped the lectern and read his lines, and the line of his that got quoted was "Their sacrifice has enabled us to enjoy the things that we, I think in many cases, take for granted," which does not ring, does it? No.

"Their sacrifice has enabled us to enjoy the things that many of us take for granted" would have been better, but still it's nothing people will take home with them and ponder. How about "Their noble sacrifice has enabled us to see the ignobility of the leadership that sent them to their deaths"? How about "We have sacrificed enough of our young men and women and it is time to bring them home to enjoy the things that the rest of us take for granted"?

The Current Occupant drove over the bridge to Arlington and spoke at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a site of powerful reverence, and his speechwriter, in a hurry to finish and enjoy his weekend, gave him "From their deaths must come a world where the cruel dreams of tyrants and terrorists are frustrated and foiled - where our nation is more secure from attack, and where the gift of liberty is secured for millions who have never known it," a line cobbled together from scrap lumber. Shades of "the last full measure of devotion" and "we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain" but made from different cloth. The reputation of the Gettysburg Address remains secure.

Dishonesty makes for poor rhetoric and that's what has gutted this beautiful holiday. The ideas it celebrates - that our young men and women did their duty and died in defense of their country - are simply not true. Vietnam was lost and it didn't matter to the security of the United States. Saigon fell and life in the States went on without a blink. And since the end of Selective Service, these honored dead are somebody else's sons and daughters, not ours - one good reason why there is so little protest of this war: If the Army was conscripting our children to go to Baghdad, the Occupant's approval rating would be in the low teens.

Memorial Day survives on the faint memories of World War II, the Good War. Those old Legion and VFW guys are the ones who keep it going. Some come in fatigues, some ride in golf carts past the rows of tombstones and the urns with fresh gardenias planted in them, and the Boy Scouts line up, and the auxiliary ladies in blue hand out little American flags.

There is a distant HEE-YUP and the crowd shushes and the honor guard marches in, left, right, left, right, left, right, and Old Glory is raised on the flagpole, and we all recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The names of the dead are read and wreaths of poppies are placed and maybe somebody recites "In Flanders Fields":

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky,

The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Everyone is a little stiff and self-consciously reverent. And then comes the speech. That's the problem. It is time for the truth to be told and we cannot bring ourselves to tell it. Good men and women were sacrificed to the vanity of politicians and generals. It is a miserable business to tell lies over the graves of good soldiers, but we do, and then we all sing "America the Beautiful," including the verse about heroes proved in liberating strife, and the honor guard fires its rifle salute and somebody presses Play on a boombox and we hear "Taps" and the guard turns about-face and marches off and we walk away, thoughtfully, and there is much to think about.

- Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country, including KANU, 91.5 FM, in Lawrence.


Danielle Brunin 10 years, 6 months ago

Does that make what he's saying any less true?

gogoplata 10 years, 6 months ago

I'm not sure draft dodging is a bad thing. If there was a draft now and I was picked to go to iraq. I would refuse. I am all for defense of liberty but this war has nothing to do with that.

craigers 10 years, 6 months ago

Why read a speech over all the graves of these men and women and tell their families that they died in vain? To say that they weren't serving our country to their best and that their service was a waste since nothing was accomplished. Whether you agree with the wars or not, the servicemen and women are a noble breed and do their job when their commanding officer tells them to do something. They enlist and carry out their jobs to the best of their ability and should be honored. I'm not saying they are robots, but they will follow orders to a T. You can send a message to the politicians on a different day. Let Memorial Day remember the soldiers that served and died for us all.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 10 years, 6 months ago

Disclaimer: Garrison Keillor was a draft dodger during the Vietnam War.

Does that make what he's saying any less true?

No, but it's kind of like hearing Rush "Oxycontin" Limbaugh lecture someone about the benefit of the War on Drugs. Considering the source, you need to take the message with a pound of salt.

Sandra Willis 10 years, 6 months ago

My father wanted to go to VietNam; but he had flat feet, so they wouldn't let him join. I am proud that I have two uncles who were involved in the strife that occurred after Vietnam. But they rarely talk about it... only when they are together and family is around.

gogoplata 10 years, 6 months ago

If the truth is that those who have died were not doing so preserve our liberty, the truth should be told. Why go along with the lies? Nothing could be more honoring to the dead than to tell the truth. Most 18 year olds want to be somebody. When we go along with the idea that our military members are heroes it gets their attention. We need to get the message out that our military has been used by those in power. Many a young soldier has been mislead. How many in the military today are there because they thought they would be going after the 911 masterminds. They were mislead and now many have died in a country that had nothing to do with 911. That is the truth and the truth needs to be told. And by the way military service or a lack of it has nothing to do with a persons ability to speak on this subject.

gogoplata 10 years, 6 months ago

Sorry, I meant that they had nothing to do with perpetrating the attacks of 911. We were not attacked by Iraq. We were attacked by Bin Laden and his followers. A lot of guys signed up to go fight them, not take over Iraq.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 6 months ago

It's a shame that this forum is on my computer screen instead of actual paper, RT...then my bird would know what to do with your post.

Oh, wait, I have a printer!!

Oh, happy day!!!!

Danielle Brunin 10 years, 6 months ago

Hi Kam fong and ferdinand,

You two are spending time on here talking about something that you seemingly know nothing about. Should we take your opinions any less seriously? Of course not. Are you veterans or active service members? You haven't said one way or the other. My point is that people can have educated opinions without necessarily being an active part of what they are talking about.

craigers, I don't think G.K. is saying that the soldiers didn't fulfill their military responsibilities to their utmost ability. I think he is saying that despite their most valiant efforts, there is no way they can win this war. It's not the soldiers' fault. If my Marine brother died in the war (God forbid), I would never question whether what he did was right, but I would always question what he did, in fact, die for. I think about that sometimes and it really bothers me.

craigers 10 years, 6 months ago

rodentgirl, I see what you are saying. When I read the article it just seems like the author has contempt for the military for what they are doing, when in fact that are just serving our country and doing what they are told.

Danielle Brunin 10 years, 6 months ago


Re-read the post. I wasn't personally attacking you in the least. I was asking you a simple question. Are you or have you been in the military or not? If not, by your own standards, you have as much credibility as Garrison Keillor to discuss these matters. That was my point. Personally, I don't have time to find links, specific facts, and the like just so I can post them on this forum. I have a child, a husband, and a full-time job. I was just contributing to the discussion based on my experience as a Marine sister, and for the record, I've never indicated that I'm conservative, liberal, zebra, or whatever.

Hi craigers, I can totally understand why you interpreted the article that way. I guess, from my perspective, it is possible to critique the military while completely supporting the soldiers who are in it, much like supporting and loving your country while not necessarily supporting the leaders who run it. For example, conservatives/liberals who love the U.S., but hate Bill Clinton/George W. Anyways, have a great day (you too ferdinand)!

shockchalk 10 years, 6 months ago

Ferd, Thanks for your 7:50 post. It reminded me of a few other statements from the past......

President Clinton, Feb. 17th, 1998 "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec.16, 1998 "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapon inspection process."

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct. 10, 2002 "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."

heysoos 10 years, 6 months ago

So you are claiming it as your own. I have heard of your legacy of getting kicked off of this forum. I'll be waiting anxiously to see it happen again.

Bubbles 10 years, 6 months ago

ferdinandlanghoff (Anonymous) says:

scenebooster and nutcase:

Grow and get a life. If you cannot discuss the issues here in a dispassionate and reasonable manner, why even come here? You've turn this forum into a cesspool.

Good one.

drewdun 10 years, 6 months ago

I'm astonished that no one has called,, Ferdinand on his roundabout comparison of himself to Jesus, Martin Luther, and Abraham Lincoln.

The man is utterly psychotic.

preebo 10 years, 6 months ago


Before you head down to the Iraq-9/11 well yet again for some of that old, tired, Bush/Cheney Kool-aid... (I thought we had gone over this?)

I suggest you read a little book titled, Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11. It is a great book written by Lawrence Wright, which lays out in simple terms why Islamic Fundamentalists like one, Osama Bin Laden, came to prominence. He wasn't the first and he definitely will not be the last.

...and guess what, no Iraq tie-in.

drewfuss 10 years, 6 months ago

This was an excellent editorial before you folks turned into screaming children!

Linda Endicott 10 years, 6 months ago

The war against Japan (and Germany, both times), had a beginning, and an end.

This one does not.

gogoplata 10 years, 6 months ago

A non interventionist foreign policy will save more american lives than the military ever will. We should mind our own business. Iraq didn't attack us.

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