This weekend, folks* across the country are opening up the pool, firing up the grill, and taking a well-earned moment to relax. But Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. In town squares and national cemeteries, in public services and moments of quiet reflection, we will honor those who loved their country enough to sacrifice their own lives for it.
Ain't America grand? Everywhere you look, regular folks are opening up their private pools and slapping juicy filet mignons on the grills. Life is so good. In between romping and rollicking in the town square, waving flags and marching down prosperous Main Streets, regular folks are piously bowing their heads in this Time of Plenty and remembering those who loved their country enough to make everybody rich and self-satisfied and free from independent thought. What Second Great Depression?
This Memorial Day, Michelle and I will join Gold Star families, veterans, and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. We’ll pay tribute to patriots of every generation who gave the last full measure of devotion, from Lexington and Concord to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Presidents indulging in muted bellicosity always co-opt their wives in order to soften the ugly reality that they and their predecessors have been directly responsible for the deaths and disfigurements of millions of people. Heck, Dubya will even be draggng Laura back to the White House this week to unveil their official portraits! War crimes? What war crimes?
Later that day, we’ll join Vietnam veterans and their families at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—the Wall. We’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It’s another chance to honor those we lost at places like Hue, Khe Sanh, Danang and Hamburger Hill. And we’ll be calling on you—the American people—to join us in thanking our Vietnam veterans in your communities.
Since Vietnam is but a fuzzy memory, it is now safe to acknowledge, glorify and mythologize it. It is a Golden Anniversary, a golden opportunity for nostalgic propaganda. Thank the Vietnam vets in your communities, if you even know who they are. Not a few of them died prematurely because of undiagnosed PTSD, alcoholism, drug abuse. Many are lying forgotten in VA hospitals. Chances are that your local grizzled dumpster-diver or town drunk is a Vietnam vet, neglected and despised then, and invisible now. Vietnam has been described as the first teenage war, meaning most Nam veterans are still only in their sixties or seventies, despite the golden anniversary hoopla. The average age of combatants was only 20.
Even as we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we reaffirm our commitment to care for those who served alongside them—the veterans who came home. This includes our newest generation of veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Depending on who you believe, the veteran unemployment rate is either well above the national average, or getting better all the time. The government has partnered with slave factories like Walmart, which pledges to give "Careers With a Mission" jobs to returning vets. They claim to match military skills to job placement. For example, an Army intelligence expert might land a job as a store security guard, or otherwise morph from protecting our freedoms to protecting corporate investors!
|Walmart: Morphing Your Allegiance from One Empire to Another|
The Homeland Security complex says it has manufactured 50,000 make-work jobs for vets to get them out of sight, out of mind, and to prevent any more of them throwing down their heroism medals in disgust and getting beaten up at NATO protests. We have to make room, after all, for the next generation of Afghanistan (Iran? Asia Pacific? Latin America?) veterans, many of whom will be the children and grandchildren of Vietnam and Iraq veterans. The cycle of war profiteering will never end. Thanks in part to the sacrifice of the troops, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney got a 16% raise last year, up to $23 million. William H. Swanson of Raytheon raked in $24.88 million. Contrast that with the base pay of a sacrificial Army private: $1500 a month.
We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us: By making sure that they get the healthcare and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect.
They will be paying higher premiums for their healthcare, in order that we can free up more money to buy weapons, predator drones, bombs, aircraft carriers, fighter jets and generally continue to enrich defense and private security contractors. We are failing to rein in the for-profit online colleges who continue to scam and indebt our returning veterans. "Enjoying the freedom they risked everything to protect" means continued prosperity for Wall Street and the military industrial complex, and austerity for everybody else.
Our men and women in uniform took an oath to defend our country at all costs, and today, as members of the finest military the world has ever known, they uphold that oath with dignity and courage. As President, I have no higher honor than serving as their Commander-in-Chief. But with that honor comes a solemn responsibility – one that gets driven home every time I sign a condolence letter, or meet a family member whose life has been turned upside down.
Many of our young men and women joined the service because they could not find a decent job here at home. They took an oath to become pawns in an endless campaign of military aggression in far-flung, impoverished corners of the world. The finest military the world has ever known is also the largest, most wasteful and deadliest military the world has ever known. It is hated and feared by innocent people the wide world over. All the letters of condolence, all the meetings with bereaved family members, have never stopped the greatest super-power on earth from waging its endless campaign for global dominance. The faux- sympathetic presidential pen is never mightier than that most profitable sword.
No words can ever bring back a loved one who has been lost. No ceremony can do justice to their memory. No honor will ever fill their absence.
But we keep giving speeches and holding parades and laying wreaths anyway, to feel all warm and snuggly inside and to justify our actions in our own minds. Ceremonies give meaning to the meaningless and justification for the unjustifiable.
But on Memorial Day, we come together as Americans to let these families and veterans know that they are not alone. We give thanks for those who sacrificed everything so that we could be free. And we commit ourselves to upholding the ideals for which so many patriots have fought and died.
The wars have bankrupted us as a nation. But thanks anyway to all the grunts who suffered and died so the plutocrats can maintain the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. They have become free to wreak their havoc with unfettered abandon. We commit ourselves to the ideal of sacrificing poor people, so rich people and corporations can thrive. Platitudinous speeches like this one all sound alike, because they're a dime a dozen.
Thank you, God bless you, and have a wonderful weekend.
Fire up the grills, play a round of golf, and jump in your pools. Your president hereby declares your uncomfortable two minutes of quiet reflection to be officially over.
*"When a politician uses the word 'folks' we should brace ourselves for the deceit or worse that is coming." --Noam Chomsky.