I have a lot of mixed feelings about Memorial Day, or more specifically, the way we are often told how to properly respect what this day is about. I believe deeply in honoring those men & women who sacrificed their lives in service to our nation. I think it's our duty as Americans to ensure that their families are cared for. It's also our duty to ensure that those who do come home after serving are given generous benefits, including a lifetime of top shelf health care and education benefits.
I also believe, however, that Memorial Day ought to be a time to reflect on the times our leaders have inappropriately engaged our military--and needlessly caused so many of our soldiers to die. I know that many of us have a lot of trouble with the idea that American soldiers have died in vain. But when it comes to what's happened in Iraq, I don't see how it's not the case. We were shamefully lied to by those who swore to protect and defend the Constitution.
Many of the men & women who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan have done so with honor. They did their duty (and some well beyond) to help rebuild. They did so in extremely tough conditions that a lot of us civilian folk (myself included) would find intolerable.
But this service, in my view, didn't "protect our freedoms". In fact, these conflicts and 9-11 have been used as an excuse to greatly curtail our freedoms. Trying to get on an airplane nowadays is an exercise is ridiculousness: a nonsensically invasive series of procedures. Our Congress has passed laws, including the Patriot Act, specifically designed to make us less free.
There are also some very troubling incidents that individual members of the military have engaged in. From torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison to more recently a series of high profile incidents of misconduct in Afghanistan by members of the military, it's hard to not wonder if there's a larger, systemic problem with the culture of the armed services.
It's a lot to ponder.
No doubt there will be those who will question the patriotism of people, like myself, who raise such questions on a day set aside for honoring the fallen. But consider that if we are to truly honor their sacrifice--we must boldly confront these issues head on. Sweeping them under the rug and hiding from them only guarantee that they'll continue. This is an unacceptable thing for a nation whose very foundation is built on the blood of those died to bring us our freedoms in the first place.
I can't think of a day, with the possible exception of Veteran's Day, where we turn our national focus more toward the military. They deserve our scrutiny as well as our gratitude.