Every year since the night I received the heart-wrenching phone call notifying me about my friend’s death via road-side-bomb in Iraq, I think of Memorial Day as one to reflect on the senseless conflicts the United States has been involved with and the countless lives lost. Before that night, I would blindly support the same sentiment that I see spreading around Facebook, Twitter & Instagram; “support our troops,” or, “remember who died to give you this freedom.” Even worse are the comments that ignorantly support American Nationalism.
For the last couple years, on this weekend I have thought about those who are still a bullet away from death in wars we shouldn’t be involved with. I think about how America has less freedoms than many places that don’t gloat about having freedoms. I think about how America is making a name for itself as the bully of the world with its superpower military while treating its own citizens to substandard education and healthcare. I think about the over 46 million Americans on food stamps or the 9.8 million who are unemployed (OR THE 37.2 MILLION AMERICANS WHO ARE ON FOOD STAMPS AND HAVE JOBS) while we spend trillions on the war machine. I think about the people who benefit from that machine… living right within our own borders, and sacrificing other people’s lives to make a quick buck. And then I think about how Americans blindly participate, telling themselves that’s it’s all for freedom, the spread of democracy, those who fight are heroes and that we shouldn’t question the morality of the situation.
The truth is that in recent years, way too much evidence has surfaced for us not to question what the fuck is going on. We know that Haliburton, headed by Dick Cheney at the time (and who pushed for the invasion of Iraq), benefited to the tune of 39.5 billion dollars by the conflict that resulted. And we all know there is enough evidence to question the events that have led us to these conflicts in the first place. We also know that the US is building weapons the leaders of our military have explicitly stated they don’t need. “If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno. So the question that is begged here is not, “why.” The question is, “why aren’t we doing anything about it?”
War is big money for the most elite individuals in the world, and a great number of those who we are supposed to hail as heroes for our country on this day, should never have been put into a position that could bring them harm in the first place. My friend’s blood stained the sand of a foreign place so that American defense contractors and oil companies could see more green… and it was the President of the United States of America who made it all possible. Is my friend a hero? If my friend killed some innocent people in Iraq is he a hero? If my friend killed some militants is he a hero? If my friend jumped on a grenade and saved other people’s lives is he a hero? My friend should never have been in Iraq in the first place and I shouldn’t have to think about these questions that don’t fucking matter because my friend is dead, hero or not.
I recognize the need for a defensive military force in America because this primitive world in which we live is full of ignorant people who will try a country that isn’t sufficiently defended (Ukraine?). But when you are the aggressor in nearly all of your conflicts, and the world reacts publicly saying that America has ‘invaded’ another country, perhaps it’s time to rethink how this superpower should be run. We sacrifice our youth and kill innocent people for profit and hail those who do it as heroes. (Just following orders?) We spend billions of dollars on weapons the military doesn’t need. We instigate conflict in volatile environments so we can get involved with selling weapons or participate in the conflicts themselves.
Today is memorial day in the United States of America, and I have a lot on my mind. Maybe we should start to think about more than just how to remember those who have fallen on this day. Perhaps we can start to think about how we can change the future by shifting our focus from conflict. Maybe enough innocent people have died for wars we shouldn’t be involved with. We can’t bring back our fallen friends and family, but maybe we can make a future that doesn’t feel so primitive.