Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Post-Memorial Day thoughts (or how Deep Throat stole my thunder)

Watching ABC Nightline's rollcall of 'The Fallen', what struck me was the age of the soldiers. Initially, I couldn't get over how young they were - so many of them were 19, 20, not even old enough to drink legally. They're just kids - did they really understand what they were doing? Did they consider death as a possibility any more than an average teenager who gets behind the wheel of a car for the first time?

Then I noticed the soldiers over 30. Surely most of them left families behind and it made me think, which death is more tragic - the kid's or the father's? I have no idea.

Growing up outside the States, I don't have the same appreciation of Memorial Day that Americans do. I think it is great that recognition of soldiers who serve the country is an ingrained part of the culture, something we don't have in Japan. At the same time I feel a teensy bit uncomfortable when the usual "fighting for our freedom/democracy/our way of life" line is trotted out.

Now, don't get me wrong - I have no doubt that the individual soldiers themselves do fight for freedom/democracy/way of life. For that, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives, I'm thankful. But my question is, do their sacrifices really ensure American freedom? Will the democratic system be significantly threatened if the Iraqi insurgency prevailed? Conversely, will we be freer if the insurgency is suppressed? And when you to consider much of US foreign policy in the past half century, you have to concede that US military action does not necessarily preserve security or democracy.

I realize this probably comes off as overly nit picky and I am not all that concerned about semantics either. However, I do take issue with how the "fighting for _____" line is thrown around way too casually. When the media tells us soldiers are fighting for our freedoms without making damn sure that the men and women really are ensuring our freedoms, then the phrase just becomes empty sloganeering. And when that happens, we are just using the military to get over our white collar guilt and to advance jingoism disguised as patriotism. To me, that is as tragic as not recognizing their sacrifices at all.

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