Flags are at half-mast, fluttering in the breeze. The smell of barbecue clings to summer dresses in a suburban yard. Somewhere, "Taps" is sounding over crumbling tombstones laced with flowers. And in the whitewashed halls of Washington, Republicans and their "Christian" clerical allies aren't giving a second thought to the young soldiers' lives they destroy every day. To them, our troops are tools to be used and discarded.
Here's my advice to the lady in that SUV over there, the one with the flag on the antenna: Burn your yellow-ribbon decal.
Somebody will be outraged that I'm attacking the right and its minions on this day, when we're meant to honor our fallen heroes. Here's my question in response: What better day can there be?
Our young fighting men and women have been scarred and killed by lies, neglect, and selfish ambition. Medical care is being cut for active and retirement military personnel - so much so that one veterans' retirement home is suing Rumsfeld. There are fears that more homeless vets are on the way. The blame lies with this Administration and all those who have supported it (and yes, that means you, McCain).
The best way to honor the memory of America's fallen is by fighting for the rights and dignity of the soldiers and veterans who are being manipulated and mistreated by the Republican party and its "Christian" cohorts.
Let's be clear: By "Christian," I don't mean true Christians. I mean those right-wing politicized clergymen who profess Christian beliefs in order to gain wealth and political power by allying themselves with the GOP. They, and their Republican partners, have dishonored Memorial Day by turning our soldiers into disposable goods to be used for their own self-centered goals.
Recent news reports about that slain Wiccan soldier, and the military's refusal to commemorate his beliefs on his headstone, are as good a place to start as any. America's military has always been a melting pot of ethnicity, geography - and beliefs. This Administration and its fundamentalist backers have been working to change that, by making our Armed Forces a Christianized, politicized unit.
They've worked to eliminate the democratic and non-sectarian nature of our military at the expense of our treasured national values. The Wiccan soldier's tribute is a case in point. For 24 months his family has struggled in vain for recognition of his religion. (Only Pentagon-approved symbols can appear on military headstones. While a number of faiths have been approved in past years, this administration's been notoriously slow on this request.)
GOP defenders will argue that their ordeal isn't the result of religious bigotry, but of simple neglect. It's true that no administration has neglected our war dead like this one. Some defense. While it's arguable that neglect could be the reason for the Wiccan scandal, there have been other cases where our soldiers have been used as fodder for Christianist politics. That suggests a pattern.
Take the Air Force Academy scandal. For years under this Administration, non-Fundamentalist cadets were harassed and harangued by "born again" rightwingers, to the point of abuse - and misuse of power. Our Republican leaders resisted any attempt to address the problem until forced to do so by public pressure.
Then there's the case of Gen. William Boykin. He's the clown who went parading in front of fundamentalist conventions in full military attire (a flagrant violation of military regs), bragging about his anti-Muslim war exploits by saying that "My God is bigger than theirs" - a statement which most certainly intensified anti-US hatred in the Middle East and put our young people in even greater danger.
His "punishment"? A promotion.
Our soldiers have been forced to smear the faith of their opponents by the Pentagon's "psy-ops" overlords - and then made to take the fall in court if they're caught. A case in point: Soldiers were clearly directed to burn the bodies of fallen insurgents. Why? Because it's a violation of Islamic tenets, and will supposedly demoralize other rebels. When captured on videotape, they - and not their superiors - faced sanctions. The Pentagon argued that they acted on impulse - without explaining how that "impulse" directed them to an informed act of anti-Muslim psychological warfare (accompanied by a tape of taunts broadcast in Arabic).
Then there's Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the rest of the American Torture Gulag. Our Republichristian leaders take kids out of their high schools and home towns, pump them up in boot camp (let Stan Goff explain), then put guns in their hands. After that they tell them to burn Qurans, force sexist Iraqi men to simulate gay sex, and attack them with dogs (an animals Arabs have traditionally despised.) Then, when the pictures surface, they put these naive and confused children on trial for the sins of their superiors.
It's easier to demonize Lynndie England than it is to accept Bush's responsibility for those horrors, or that of the Republican Party and its Democratic placaters - or, for that matter, ours.
Worst of all, there are the orders to torture and to murder. Whether it's Abu Ghraib or the emerging horror of Haditha, the chains of culpability lead up to the top. I've written before on the psychic scarring that a young person endures when they're instructed to commit torture. Without minimizing the agony of the victim, which is our primary moral responsibility, let's use this Memorial Day to remember how our young soldiers are being harmed for life when these orders are given.
Stress disorders and other mental illnesses are on the rise, and the military's cutting support for their treatment. As Stars and Stripes reports, homeless advocates fear a new wave of homeless veterans is coming. A retirement home for vets is suing Rumsfeld and the DoD in an attempt to get decent healthcare for its residents. Our "pro-war" and "Christian" leaders, and those who support them, couldn't care less - any more than they could bring themselves to care about sending soldiers into battle without adequate body armor or vehicle shielding.
To this crowd, soldiers are puppets and props. Send 'em to the Mexican border for a photo op, stand 'em next to the President with a papier-mache turkey, send 'em out to die for a war that's going to boost our poll ratings. Who cares? They don't belong to our country club, anyway.
That's why I suggest you burn that yellow-ribbon decal, if you have one. It may say "Support Our Troops" in black ink, but what it's really saying is "I've been manipulated by politicians and cynical preachers into supporting an Administration that mistreats our veterans, disrespects our soldiers, and sacrifices them both on a whim."
This Memorial Day, you can truly honor our fallen heroes - by fighting for their comrades who are still among us.
A Night Light