Curtain Raiser

It’s OK to Grieve Over America, Colltalers

Today, millions in the U.S. are marking or doing things related to Memorial Day. They’ll be traveling, barbecuing, watching parades, or simply watching with family and friends, the official celebrations on TV. A minority will also remember close relatives they’ve lost to wars.
Not to knock such a somber date, but Americans could use less pomp and more outrage about what the day conveys. More so now that they’re led by a belligerent administration. For there’s not much cheering at Veterans affairs, or compassion towards refugees all these wars produce.
In fact, despite the mournful and touching tone of news coverage about this day, which it’s been marked since the late 1800s, the contingent of former armed force members are ever more associated with untreated mental illness, homelessness, and general, brutal apathy from society.
The hypocrisy of sending troops with abandon, supposedly to fight for American interests in far away lands, and then coolly welcoming them back, often damaged for life, is beyond appalling. A fact that over 100 former armed forces serving in Congress now seem incapable to reverse.
In other words, it’s in the nature of being a soldier to serve the country no matter what. But it’s also OK to question the motives of presidents and politicians, who lied about the purpose of ordering them to die or get wounded abroad, while enriching themselves and their closed ones.
There are now 1,4 million American troops stationed around the world, mostly in harm’s way, fighting for something most of us can’t quite define what. In Afghanistan, for instance, they may not be killed as often as high-schoolers in this country, but they still die in battle, either physically, or mentally. Then, when they’re shipped back, not yet in a body bag, all they’ve got, if ever, are those who knew them before.
They return hardly recognizable, though. And soon realized how society rather than having their back, has its back to them. Horrors they’ve experienced while there are never mentioned by the media. Today won’t be different; just like school shootings, there’s never a ‘right time’ to discuss causes and what to do to stop both

the killings and the indifference. It becomes more revolting whenever the drums of war sound.
For they’re about thunder and macho displays that people who usually have never served can muster, with no word about the tragedy and devastating consequences any war causes, the human toll, the destruction of entire societies, the returning troves of empty shell humans.
More than ever now, with the ban on refugees from ‘those’ countries, almost always, places where we’ve wreaked havoc and deployed massive amounts of explosive in the name of democracy. Again, our longest war so far, Afghanistan, comes to mind. According to the Amnesty, 4.5 million Afghans live as outcasts in Iraq and Pakistan, but the U.S., along the European Union and Turkey, won’t take them.
In 2016, when President Obama was still resisting sending more troops, even without slowing down bombing by drone and other air tactics, there were almost 40 million homeless veterans in America. That it’s unlikely to be mentioned on any patriotic speech throughout the day.
That such an incomprehensibly large number of ‘heroes,’ who have no shelter or hope of ever being reintegrated into society, ceased to shock the American people long ago, is a clear demo of our level of empathy. Almost as despicable as the general omission by the media, of what’s going on right now with the troops abroad. It’s obvious that something went very wrong with our notion of having an army to protect us.
The 3pm ‘Moment of National Remembrance,’ while expected to be observed by many, won’t increase awareness by those enjoying hotdogs and beers, of ex-combatants who’ll go hungry today. But it should, if only as a symbol. For there’re many reasons to spoil the festive spirit.
But state and local governments will follow the administration, and prioritize public displays of patriotism, flags and fireworks, to celebrate the might of America. As for actually welcoming back those who served, or those who lost everything due to our actions, not so much. It’s an outrage that a soccer superstar like Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as not-for-profit charities, have contributed more to Syrian kids than the U.S.
Then again, this is the home base of 13 out of the 20 most profitable weapon making companies in the world, whose profits are expected to reach $40 billion this year alone. It’s also a time when the Supreme Court just ruled against the workers’ ability to organize themselves, and Congress just rolled back bank restrictions that reset the clock to 2008, when bankers almost led the global financial system to bankruptcy.
Thank goodness, then, that despite the president’s spectacular failure to secure a meeting with the North Korea leader, one he didn’t help to set up and yet stood to profit from it, Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in did meet and continue working for peace. Speaking of which, the first Colombian presidential elections since the 2016 agreement that pacified the country, is likely heading for a runoff.
Life goes on, the world’s not getting any better, and all that. Americans can correctly tell why this day matters, but it’d be naive to expect it to bring relief to the 0,5% of the population actually involved with the wars we fight. Elected officials don’t even feel the need to comfort them on a day like this, it seems, by bringing forth legislation to address chronic VA troubles, for instance, or promote a more powerful GI Bill.
Still, no one should be able to avert their eyes from the reality of Vet homelessness, or that the average American can’t even afford a $500 emergency. That a third have no money to buy food, shelter, or healthcare, which for a family now costs $28k, about half of a median income accessible to only 40% of the population. And that we don’t read about this every day of the year, so to never forget what we really are.
Memorial Day risks being turned into the Day of the Dead. The unregistered, uncounted, unaccounted for, 40 millions who beg for change and fight their vicious demons alone on the streets. The ignored, unemployable, often undocumented people who once made America great.
They’re likely to be overlooked today and every day that’ll be, while there’s talk about starting yet another war we won’t be able to get out of. One that will certainly bring up more grief and resentment and tragedy, all intrinsic to today. But we will remember every bit of it, even if without celebrating it much. Sad the country that honors cardboard idols, while letting its heroes to rot in the streets. Peace be praised. WC


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