37,000 and counting

The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund organisation planted 37,000 American flags on the Boston Common for Memorial Day. Each represented the life of a Massachusetts “hero” who died in service while on the American side of one of the many wars the U.S. has joined since the Revolutionary War.

Memorial Day was established in the wake of the Civil War specifically to memorialise the Civil War dead. After subsequent wars it was determined to broaden its applicability to include all American wars. That is pretty liberal thinking when you consider that those who perished in the Revolutionary War weren’t even US citizens. Let’s face it, if America had a separate holiday for every war, we’d never get any work done.

All I know about the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund is that they purport “Supporting Families Who Have Made The Ultimate Sacrifice”. That is an honourable intent, so other than excess capitalisation, I have no quarrel with them. Despite having grown rather fervently anti-military in my old age, I realise that their flags represent far more victims of circumstance than courageous crusaders. photoCertainly most foot soldiers end up in the infantry for being unlucky in the draft, or because they had no better career prospect. Moreover, regardless of provenance, the families of war dead deserve to be supported. The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund says the flags are there for “observance and reflection”,  to help me “remember and honor the ultimate sacrifices”.  Fair enough.

There are a number of memorials that offer a visual representation of the enormous number of war dead. Some are permanent, like Arlington National Cemetery. Some are temporary, like this one, or the millions of poppies that overflowed from the Tower of London to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of The Great War.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t know about everybody else, but when I come across such monuments, my reflections are not about courage, or heroism, or valour, or honour, or victory, or bravery, or sacrifice. My reflections are about senseless loss, and needless pain, and unspeakable arrogance of government, and ego-driven stupidity of leaders.

Do I pity the fallen foot soldiers? Yes. Have I empathy with their families? Absolutely. But mostly I am furiously angry with their leaders and government for getting them killed in the first place.

By the way, why does the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund even need to support families who have made the ultimate sacrifice? Isn’t that the least the government can do?

Not fair enough.

SK

14. Southeast Asian Rescue

  1. 01. To The Rescue
  2. 02. Last Minute Minutia
  3. 03. Spiritual Me
  4. 04. A New Approach
  5. 05. Cruising Cambodia
  6. 06. Ox Cart Aerobics and Buddhist Blessing Yoga
  7. 07. My Great Cambodian Depression
  8. 08. A Day on the River Limbo
  9. 09. Lies, Damned Statistics, and Tourism
  10. 10. Saigon Reunification
  11. 11. The Way to Huế
  12. 12. A Hot Time in the Old Town
  13. 13. An Hanoi-ing Experience
  14. 14. Southeast Asian Rescue

[The final post in the series Smiling Kodiak to the Rescue]

It was my last full day in Vietnam — the first of May, International Labour Day, or May Day. It is a holiday of significance in socialist nations, and Vietnam is no exception. At six o’clock in the morning we set out for our morning constitutional around Hoan Kiem Lake. The crowds exercising around the lake had grown even bigger, the activities supplemented by a half dozen badminton games being played with real zeal.

As you would expect on a holiday honouring the worker, most businesses had closed for the day, although most retail shops were open with slightly reduced hours. IMG_9600We were in the market for propaganda posters, having started a small collection with some fine specimens purchased in Shanghai a few years back. Continue reading 14. Southeast Asian Rescue

13. An Hanoi-ing Experience

  1. 01. To The Rescue
  2. 02. Last Minute Minutia
  3. 03. Spiritual Me
  4. 04. A New Approach
  5. 05. Cruising Cambodia
  6. 06. Ox Cart Aerobics and Buddhist Blessing Yoga
  7. 07. My Great Cambodian Depression
  8. 08. A Day on the River Limbo
  9. 09. Lies, Damned Statistics, and Tourism
  10. 10. Saigon Reunification
  11. 11. The Way to Huế
  12. 12. A Hot Time in the Old Town
  13. 13. An Hanoi-ing Experience
  14. 14. Southeast Asian Rescue

Raised in the sixties, it was made clear to me that Hanoi was the bad guys, the commies, the aggressors, the domineers of the domino theory, the red menace, the yellow hordes, green with envy, blind to liberty, truth, justice and the American way. While I was years too young for the draft, the war and the draft were very much a threat to my older siblings. As with many other political and economic issues of the day, at a young age I was required to form an opinion on the matter. Mine was, “What on Earth are we doing there?”

The train from Huế reached the outskirts of Hanoi with the pre-dawn first light. Overnight only one strange man tried to enter our cabin (drat). He was foiled from proceeding past our faulty door lock by the plastic shopping bag I had rigged to create a racket in just such an eventuality. I said a quizzical “Hallo?” to the saggy-faced middle-aged man I saw through the crack. He looked shocked and angry to find me in his bed, then realised his mistake with a grunt and closed the door.
Continue reading 13. An Hanoi-ing Experience

12. A Hot Time in the Old Town

  1. 01. To The Rescue
  2. 02. Last Minute Minutia
  3. 03. Spiritual Me
  4. 04. A New Approach
  5. 05. Cruising Cambodia
  6. 06. Ox Cart Aerobics and Buddhist Blessing Yoga
  7. 07. My Great Cambodian Depression
  8. 08. A Day on the River Limbo
  9. 09. Lies, Damned Statistics, and Tourism
  10. 10. Saigon Reunification
  11. 11. The Way to Huế
  12. 12. A Hot Time in the Old Town
  13. 13. An Hanoi-ing Experience
  14. 14. Southeast Asian Rescue

The very helpful staff of the Holiday Diamond Hotel plotted to send us up the river. After breakfast we fell for it, paying twenty-five bucks for a private tour to see the other great attractions dotting the Huong River near Huế, specifically, a famed pagodas and one of many emperors’ tombs.

IMG_9169By nine-thirty we boarded a junk, just the two of us joining an old woman who spoke no English but provided service of a sort, and a somewhat younger man at the helm. Only then did it dawn on me that we had just three days earlier completed more than a week on a river touring pagodas. IMG_9370But we were committed. Regardless, it was too damned hot to do much more than watch the world go by, and in Vietnam there is no better place to do that than on its superhighways, which are its rivers. Continue reading 12. A Hot Time in the Old Town

11. The Way to Huế

  1. 01. To The Rescue
  2. 02. Last Minute Minutia
  3. 03. Spiritual Me
  4. 04. A New Approach
  5. 05. Cruising Cambodia
  6. 06. Ox Cart Aerobics and Buddhist Blessing Yoga
  7. 07. My Great Cambodian Depression
  8. 08. A Day on the River Limbo
  9. 09. Lies, Damned Statistics, and Tourism
  10. 10. Saigon Reunification
  11. 11. The Way to Huế
  12. 12. A Hot Time in the Old Town
  13. 13. An Hanoi-ing Experience
  14. 14. Southeast Asian Rescue

I cannot recall ever having bleu cheese on toast for breakfast before, but the Pullman chain is one of the Accor family of hotels, French to its core, the bread and cheese impeccable. Despite a full buffet offering anything I wanted, bleu cheese on toast it was, and it was wonderful.

We struck out for a walk along the Saigon River towards a green splotch on the map labelled as the Botanical Gardens. First we filled our backpacks with about two gallons of bottled water, having discovered that consuming less than a litre per hour each was tantamount to suicide. Off the Doxycycline, I covered myself from stem to stern in DEET in the hopes of avoiding mosquito-borne malaria. Then I bathed in sunblock. I dislike starting the day covered in such crud, but to do otherwise would be asking for trouble. Continue reading 11. The Way to Huế