Christopher Hitchens’ bleak yet spirited Memorial Day essay ends this way:
“Always think of it: never speak of it.” That was the stoic French injunction during the time when the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine had been lost. This resolution might serve us well at the present time, when we are in midconflict with a hideous foe, and when it is too soon to be thinking of memorials to a war not yet won. This Memorial Day, one might think particularly of those of our fallen who also guarded polling-places, opened schools and clinics, and excavated mass graves. They represent the highest form of the citizen, and every man and woman among them was a volunteer. This plain statement requires no further rhetoric.
Of course, “Always think of it: never speak of it”, though a worthy admonition, has its own complexities. This particular Memorial Day contains within it, unspoken or not, like it or not, the spectre of Abu Ghraib and now Haditha. I find the likes of Jack Murtha contemptible because in their self-regarding pronouncements on these matters they fail to take into account (probably deliberately) the obvious – that all wars of any serious length have events of this nature. And yet these events are still disturbing. They test us. Just as it looks as if it is getting better, it gets worse. And the reverse. The one thing you learn from this is whom you would like next to you in a foxhole – in the physical, theoretical and emotional senses.
For Memorial Day, my humble advice is this. This time don’y follow the Mafia rule. Keep your friends, not your enemies closer. Make a generous pitcher of margaritas. And salute those who have fought for liberty before. We’re all in this for the long haul. And… as they say… have a good one.