Well here it is at Memorial Day in the US and i, ever the reluctant and recalcitrant blogger, am busy at my keyboard for the first time in forever jotting down a few thoughts on this neglected holiday while trying not to drown in my own sweat. Sitting in shorts and a thin shortsleeved button down shirt i’m moved to reflect on the extremely hot uniforms of all of those who marched off to war. Whether it was the many layers of wool worn throughout the past centuries or the cotton or linen or whatever – going to war is hot dirty work.
I know. What an odd way to begin a memorial but this is Puckishwird, here, what did you expect? A straightforward paien to the honor and nobility of those who served? Part of being Puckish means that straightforward is not in my being. Nothing moves in straight lines. Life – and writing – is a dance. The steps are marked out. Sometimes you do it well and sometimes it looks like someone is electrocuting you in a conga line.
So here i am, trying to stay cool (and failing) and considering – having donned the blue wool of a civil war reenactor in my youth – that it’s all hot and dirty work and wondering what the hell the point of it all was. I am trying to reconcile the sacrifice of generations of youths with the product, which is us. This is no easy or Puckish task. This is, perhaps, fit for stouter and more glorious minds. But quite frankly, and i’m going to be as honest as i can be here, it’s difficult to remember (or memorialize) the grand feat of all of the generations of fighters in this country and come to terms with what we are today which is (as i see it) a nation divided once again by the pettiest of petty squabbles so wrapped up in our self conceptions that it is unconscionable to give one inch of so called ‘principles’ for fear the other side – whoever they may be – may take a mile.
Basically the world has some serious problems – Dire, grave, woeful, issues – and we as a nation dance on the head of a pin like furious two year olds squabbling over who gets to sit in the front seat- sooner or later that damned pins going straight up our ass. How does one reconcile this with the willingness of thousands to give fully of themselves for the benefit of the nation and the world?
We like to say that we honor their sacrifice because they fought for us. I’m sorry but that cannot be true and if it is – we’ve made horrid mockeries of their sacrifice. Most of us will not spend two seconds thinking about an uncle one has never met, or a grandfather who never was, or the tragic ghosts of a memory carefully unspoken. We will shovel our faces with a hot dog, watch the game, and be thankful at least that they have produced a day of respite from a job that we are privileged to be ground to dust by. Our human imaginations, so potent in individuals, anemic en masse, can’t contain the weight of misery endured on behalf of an unseen future that is fairly blighted by prospects at present. It can’t look on a murderous beachhead with promise, or a vast wheatfield with hope. We can’t imagine facing these things. And that’s okay, really. We don’t have to. Someone else did it already. But we do have to imagine a future that is worth envisioning. We are given, graced perhaps, with the victories and defeats of others and obligated to live up to them. Yeah. That sounds awfully dour. Sorry. But this isn’t a bad thing. This is an opportunity and an honor.
Our ancestors who fought these wars, no matter their cause or outcome, didn’t do so for us. They did it for themselves. They did it so that they could carve from history a place for their immediate future. It is always such a tragically small future that they make and some of them fail, but it is their right to determine it that we honor.
Precious few remember the soldiers at Yorktown on both sides, one holding to the glory of an empire, one fighting for freedom of a new land of promise built on the back of an old land of home and nature. Few remember Antietam and it’s miserable mess fought for the right of a people to be released from slavery and a country to stay united. Sadly few remember Iwo Jima or Normandy where we stood with THE WORLD to free europe from a nightmare. All of this is okay. Someone bought our right to not remember and who really wants to remember all that blood anyway? It’s a horrible thing. Don’t do it. Enjoy your hotdog.
But to be here and now is an honor. Rather than reenact on a pathetic scale the conflicts of ideologies and egos that have led to so much death on this planet, lets put them down. Rather than stand in a uniform with one side or the other, let’s take the uniforms off and discuss solutions to these problems. We can get away from Us and Them so long as we can discuss everything in that great expanse of wheatfield in the middle, so long as we can both look upon the beach with no reason to fear.
I guess, in a way, i think the greatest honor to the fallen might be to finally figure out a new way to do the fighting – to finally figure out that in the middle, between the trenches, is a football pitch, an idea, a problem, a solution. All the killing in the world will not find the solution unless you stop fearing and get on out there and play without uniforms.
Enjoy your hot dog.