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. Certainly 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.
I 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.