is Memorial Day in America. Officially, we set aside this day to
remember those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have died in
the defense of our freedom. Culturally, like any other holiday, it has
devolved into one more reason for sleeping late on Monday, cookouts,
camping trips, ballgames and sales at the mall.
Yet, while we may take a
few moments in solemn remembrance of those who perished in places
ranging from Freehold, New Jersey (a few miles from where I grew up) to
the caves of Afghanistan, we need to ask a larger question: are we even
What are we doing with
the freedom that they died for?
Most wars, sadly, have
not been about freedom. The War of Northern Aggression, from 1861-1865,
was not about freeing the slaves. Slavery was on its way out due to
advances in technology and the growing conviction in the hearts and
minds of Americans that slavery was just plain wrong. A war to end it
was not necessary. Several southern states seceded to protest the
grossly unfair impacts of tariffs. They just wanted Washington to leave
Lincoln, who suspended
many civil liberties in order to prosecute this war, said, “I don’t
think so.” A horribly bloody war ensued. The Founders sacrificed
valiantly for the cause of “free and independent states.” This all went
away as a result of Mr. Lincoln’s war. The march toward centralization
of power at the federal level had begun and would eventually turn into a
Randolph Bourne, a man
far more succinct than I will ever be, once remarked that “War is the
health of the state.” Show me a war and I will show you drafts,
disregard for civil liberties and all manner of federal intrusions on
I am not a pacifist. The
rebellion of 1775-1783 and the resistance by the Confederacy from
1861-1865 were, in my mind, just wars. Moreover, I am a retired naval
reservist. People ask me about the Navy and I tell them that while I
love the Navy, I hate what it is being used for.
America has been at war
since 1941. There was a time when war was an absolute last resort. Now,
it seems as if the reward for war is more war. Today, America has troops
in over 130 countries around the world.
Why? Are they all
going to invade us? A recent study by Price Waterhouse Coopers indicated
that American military spending would equal the combined total of the
rest of the world sometime this coming year. The entire military might
of the Muslim world equals about one third of ours. If they invaded us,
we would whoop'em and whoop'em good and fast.
(9/11 was an attack, not
an invasion. Yes, the perps did horrible things and killed lots of
people. No, they did not have an invading army behind them that would
overthrow our government, make us speak Arabic and worship Allah, and
force women to wear burqas.)
Osama bin Laden cannot
take away our freedom. Neither can Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do
Yet our own government
is doing so with our blessing.
half our income is confiscated before we can do as much as buy
groceries. America has the world’s highest incarceration rate. Nine of
the ten planks of the Communist Manifesto are now the law of our land.
The PATRIOT Act has eviscerated the Fourth Amendment’s protections
against unlawful searches and seizures. DEA brownshirts storm the homes
of citizens whose only offense – not crime, offense – is consuming the
only medicine that can relieve their pain. In Philadelphia, Christians
are threatened with 47-year prison sentences for peacefully reading the
Bible at gay pride parades. Near Tampa, ten-year-old boys are led away
in handcuffs for bringing water to a dying woman. A national ID card
just became law. (Ze papers, please.)
It’s not Osama. It’s not
Saddam. It is our own friggin’ government that is doing this.
Have you boarded an
airplane since September 11, 2001? If so, you have had a glimpse of
America's future if we do not start turning things around.
And what is our response
to all of this? Last November, 98 percent of us voted to re-elect the
government that is doing these things.
Are we better off than
we were a century ago, when we started down this road of perpetual war?
Materially, yes. But, we have lost so much in so many other ways. And we
will lose our material blessings as well if we don’t stop this madness.
I do not remember the
exact details of the scene, but I will recount it as best I can. At the
end of Stephen Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, a man visits a
cemetery at Normandy and asks: “Have I lived a life worthy of the
sacrifices that were made here?”
Are we, in America in
2005, worthy of the sacrifices made and the blood spilled by so many
soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines since 1775?