This weekend we will “celebrate” Memorial Day. For the vast majority of us, that means a day off work, maybe a barbeque and some auto racing on TV. In 1971 Congress made Memorial Day a federal holiday and conveniently moved it to a Monday, to create a “long weekend.” And that wasn’t so we could have an extra day to mourn our dead.
Over one million Americans have been killed in wars. That, of course, is a tiny fraction of the human beings killed in all the wars of history.
Very, very few Americans will actually reflect soberly on the tragic cost of war this weekend. Very, very few will mourn the dead. Very, very few will treat the occasion as a time to strengthen our resolve to end wars. In fact, very, very few Americans have any resolve to end wars.
For the very few of us who even consider the meaning of Memorial Day this weekend, most will do little more than take a moment to wave a flag around, or swell with pride at the idea of America’s military might.
And I think that’s a shame. I’d prefer that this holiday be called “Summer Festival” or something that doesn’t trivialize the deaths of a million victims of human stupidity.
30 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq this month. I have no idea how many Iraqis and Afghans have been killed. How many of us know the names of any of those who have been killed? How many of us have stopped for one second to consider their deaths this month? How many of us really care about what is happening in Afghanistan?
There are now nearly 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan and nearly 100,000 more in Iraq. Perpetual war paid for with monopoly money and the blood of men and women whose deaths go unnoticed in the news.
Maybe we should just stop.
Maybe we should pray for peace on Memorial Day.