Memorial Day and Veterans Day often get equated, but there is an essential distinction between the two. Veterans Day honors all who have served the American military in wars. Memorial Day honors those who’ve perished. It’s an annual reminder that wars have grave human costs, which must be both recognized and minimized.
Those costs are not inevitable. We ought to also set aside time to remember those throughout American history who have tried hardest to reduce them, to prevent unnecessary loss of life both American and foreign: war resisters.
World War I, Vietnam, the Mexican War… you know the drill. We need statues honoring such noble figures as Eugene V. Debs, Emma Goldman and other socialist-anarchists! In conclusion:
The US is a long way away from accepting, say, a memorial for those who deserted the military or dodged the draft during Vietnam. Merely deciding to spare them prosecution was controversial enough — and their counterparts from Iraq and Afghanistan still face the possibility of jail time for refusing to kill. Even the more modest step of honoring those who tried to stop war through peaceful means — organized protest, tax evasion, other forms of civil disobedience —would likely be a tall order. The Vietnam War Memorial faced tremendous opposition upon its unveiling for not being an uncritical celebration of the conflict.
But some wars aren’t worth fighting. Some causes aren’t worth sacrificing American lives for. Those who’ve fought to remind the government of those basic facts deserve our respect and our thanks.
I give up. It’s time to stop resisting the arc of history and turn the country completely over to the Barry Husseins and Ezra Kleins of the world and see how well they run it. Or how long it lasts.