Remembering On Memorial Day

Memorial DayHappy Memorial Day everyone! I’ve been looking for ways to ruin the holiday (it is the tradition of my people), but it is so hard to do it without offending people. For example, I hate the bumper sticker that reads, “If You Like Your Freedom Thank a Vet.” I agree with the basic sentiment: it really is necessary for a country to have an army to product the nation from marauding hordes. On the other hand, there has not been an existential threat to the United States in about 200 years. Certainly there has not been one in my lifetime. In general, the military is used by countries for immoral purposes, like accumulating resources and providing leaders with glory. Thus, it isn’t the military who we should despise but the country’s generally vile leaders. At the same time, I think it is a major mistake to pretend that we owe the military any greater acknowledgement than other public servants.

But this isn’t Veterans Day, it is Memorial Day. It is the day to honor those who died in our wars. Most of these people (one way or another) had no choice about serving. Regardless, they were all doing what our leaders said was the right thing to do. These people should be honored. My only wish is that we honored them by not thinking that every new war was a great idea. We should honor the dead by limited who we send to die in the future.

Here’s something to think about: did you get a paid holiday today? Did the company that you work for honor our fallen dead by taking a little less in profit by allowing you to get paid while not working? If you get a paid holiday, you are one of the lucky few. On Friday, Rebecca Ray, Milla Sanes, and John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research released a new paper, No-Vacation Nation Revisited. In it, they show that of all the rich countries (16 European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States), we are the only country that doesn’t mandate any paid holidays or vacations. It is true that France only gives 1 paid holiday a year, but that’s kind of made up for with the six weeks of paid vacation they provide. The third worst country is Canada with one day short of four weeks. The second worst country is Japan with only two weeks paid vacation. But again, we are the worst. Or as we say in American, “We’re number one!”

No Vacation Nation

But that’s America, right? We honor veterans every day. See all the bumper stickers? But when it comes to actual veterans, not so much. They require us to spend our actual money on the VA and stuff like that. I guess we like the dead veterans more, because they don’t complain. Just the same, our war policies never change:

And when it comes to our people, we don’t provide them with time off—even out of respect for our war dead. If weekends hadn’t been a settled matter for many decades, I’m sure we would be hearing that giving workers two whole days off every week was destroying our business effectiveness. We—and by that I mean our leaders—don’t care about our veterans, our war dead, or even the workers of the nation. And that is something to remember on Memorial Day.

3 thoughts on “Remembering On Memorial Day

  1. There’s more than a little irony in this. PBS, as one would expect, had its usual salute to D-Day stuff, implying, as D-Day stuff always does, that America won the war.

    Which of course would be news to the Russians, who had a hundred time more war-related deaths. Not 100% more. A hundred times more. (We did provide some useful equipment, but by the time we joined the war, Germany was already losing.)

    It’s hard to say if, had America not landed in Europe, the Soviets would have overrun most of it. Maybe, maybe not. They had solid defensive reasons for overrunning Germany, which had attacked them quite a few times.

    In any case, America landed, and effectively took control of Western Europe. To reduce the spread of socialism there, we supported right-wing coups in the traditionally powerless nations (Greece says hello) and allowed fairly left-wing governments to run France, Germany, Scandinavia. We assumed that their generous health plans and worker protections would undermine socialism’s appeal, while making those economies unable to compete with our own.

    Today, the nations which fell under Soviet control are broke and crumbling, mismanaged for decades by indifferent oligarchs and now not managed at all by privatized owners of everything (rather like much of modern America.) The nations that were within our sphere of control (the northern ones, at least) have what’s left of the best worker protections on Earth. Which right-wing economists are trying to eliminate, but they haven’t fully succeeded. (More than a few are from Germany . . .)

    Traditionally US troops have been used to put down labor movements. When I moved to Minnesota, I was surprised to see a "National Guard Armory" in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. (The Minneapolis one parks cars, now, the St. Paul one . . . well, I don’t know what they do there. Coffee and doughnuts, most likely.) What were they originally for? Well, they were places where guns and riot gear were locked up, like the guns at Harper’s Ferry. So the military could use them to stop strikes (the guns at Harper’s Ferry were in case of a slave revolt.) Those guns were used more than once.

    In a way they didn’t know, the poor kids who got ripped to shreds on D-Day were fighting for freedom. And, in a way, they helped win it. Not for us — for western European workers. The cheesy D-Day thing I watched on PBS had a quote from Reagan, saying freedom is never more than a generation from being lost, or some such. Reagan naturally meant something different by freedom than I do ("you keep using that word — I do not think it means what you think it means.") Yet the statement has truth to it. It’d be a shame and a dishonor to the dead if Europe lost its relative worker freedom. It’d be a great honor to them if we tried some of it.

  2. @JMF – The only place that I know Reagan used that line (but it sounds like boilerplate) is in his 1964 (3?) speech against the evils of Medicare. So you’re right: he had a different definition.

    The fact is that most of what we have our military do is really vile. It’s sad. But the fact that mostly conservatives go into the military (I think it is around 2-1 conservative to liberal) shows that it is more about tribalism than ideology. The truth is a strong military ought to be associated with liberalism more than conservatism. I’ve always thought the conservative outlook was bizarre: the government can’t do anything right! Except the military! The military is the most communistic part of our government.

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