It's Memorial Day weekend and I'm darn glad it is. AMC is showing all war movies, though I have a more than adequate collection of my own and there's the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 Tomorrow. And the gang is coming over Monday for a BBQ.
But it's also a time when I get a bit introspective...
For 9 years "professionally" and 14 years total I have studied military history. Primarily I am interested in the American Civil War but I've had a fairly wide range of interests in history books on this topic. So whenever this time of the year comes around and the movie channels start showing all the WW2 movies I watched as a kid with my dad I start thinking of cemeteries.
Yep, cemeteries. Part of it has to do with a tradition that my grandfather on my dad's side (hereafter known on this blog as Pop-Pop Fry) did EVERY Memorial Day. He went to all the cemeteries where his parents and aunts and grandma Fry's parent's were buried and put flowers on their grave. I usually went with him. Part of this started because he would take us to Kiddie City in Frederick for a toy at the end of the journey. Still I always remember going out with him. I also know where my great grandparents' graves are in Mount Olivet cemetery and Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Frederick. (The tradition is modified now with Christmas trees that my Dad puts up instead of the Memorial Day trip. Still, someday I'm going to have to take up the duties. I may opt to do both.)
Anyway, there are a lot of veterans buried in Mount Olivet including a few score of Civil War soldiers who died from wounds received at Antietam. They were brought to Frederick by horse drawn ambulance and put in the army hospital, the churches around town and the old Hessian Barracks (originally built to house Hessian POW's from the Revolution.) I recall frequently looking at the headstones of those graves and others we came across that had flags and I took the time to read the dates of service.
Now with the US at war with terror I think about those graves a lot now. And the new ones with guys my age in them and I just get kinda quiet. Sometimes I don't know if this country is worth all the trouble that people go through to protect it. Seriously. We haven't done a really good thing for the world as a whole since the Second World War and the Marshall Plan. Most people don't vote for President. The best and the brightest don't serve their country in government as there's no money in it. We're selfish and have a short attention span.
What the hell happened?
Seriously? Why did we let it get this far? We're supposed to be the United States of America dammit! Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. C'mon in, get a job make something of yourself, make your kids' lives better and on the odd occasion we SAVE THE FREAKIN WORLD! We did this. This whole country got its stuff together and looked at Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire and said, "You guys are doing bad stuff, you didn't leave well enough alone and now you bombed us. We and several million of our friends here have come to kick your ass!"
And by God we did. It was that rarest of things, a GOOD war. I'm not going to argue it with anyone. It was a GOOD thing. It had to be done. It should have been done in 1935.
So I'm lamenting the past and now everyone is expecting some idea from me on how to fix it. I don't know how to fix this country but I have some ideas to try.
First I'm gonna steal an idea from Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun; reinstate a draft. Now calm down and let me finish what Dan suggested. You can choose three paths; military service, domestic social service, overseas social service. Kind of like Armed Forces/Peace Corps/Americorps only you don't have the option of doing nothing. You as a kid have to pick one. Get off the computer kids and go fix the planet. I think this is a brilliant idea.
Second: Reality TV=VERBOTEN! Just make it stop, please for the love of all that is right and holy in the world. Make it stop!
Third: If in the future we decide to invade someone...BRING EVERYONE! No more of this bringing a small forces because the American public will blanche at a huge military buildup. If you're gonna go, GO! Go with EVERYONE! You're going to war, there are no half measures. It's supposed to be messy and a hard decision, it's WAR! We made that mistake in Vietnam and we've made it again in Iraq. If you do something like this do it all the way. There WILL be civilian casualties, they will be YOUR FAULT. But that's the way it goes. We never have had any second thoughts about Dresden, Berlin, Schweinfurt, Polesti, Wilhemshaven, Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, etc. When you go to war with a country you go expecting to fight the WHOLE COUNTRY. Like I said, going to war is not supposed to be an easy decision, nor is it supposed to be painless. That's what keeps war from being more frequent. It's a terrible thing.
Fourth: Everybody in this country needs a good sense of humor and to stop being so sensitive. Just relax. It's been worse.
Ok, that's all I got at the moment.
Happy Memorial Day everyone.
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