Memorial Day, Gainesville FL
BY STEVE YACZIK
This Memorial Day has a certain degree of significance for me for a few reasons. First, my friend Adam's suicide in October '10 really brought my life experiences home for me, and made me realize how disposable soldiers are to this country.
People will “honor” veterans, both living and dead, out of some obligatory sense of “patriotism”, or an overwhelming guilt, or both.
The obligatory sense of patriotism has been ingrained in Americans for many generations now, to the point that it seems like a Pavlovian response – see a yellow ribbon, see a car license plate with a purple heart, see a veteran wearing something from his service, and immediately stop to regurgitate one or two of the many pre-programmed phrases like: “Thank you for your service”, or “It means a lot”, or how about “I appreciate what you did for us”.
The overwhelming guilt comes from the consumeristic mindset that people are keeping themselves prisoner in. They know or want to give a shit, but it's much easier to hide in the Playstation, Blu-Ray, Real Housewives corner after spraying the obligatory phrase, like a check in the box. Say what everyone “knows what should be said”, and you get your gold star for the day.
Hearing the truth about what is happening to veterans who return from war is something that barely skims the surface of these people's consciousness. A voluntary indifference that barely masks the shame of not giving a shit because basic needs and entertainment priorities are fulfilled.
A guy stopped his expensive road bike next to the tent that Vets for Peace set up near the beginning of Memorial Mile. He was dressed in the image of a True Bicycle Enthusiast, and was the same age or close to the same age as several Vietnam veterans I know. While looking over the tombstones representing the 6,000+ dead servicemembers with a very slight grin and eyes glazed over (“Patriotism”, no doubt), he regurgitated “Scott, guys, this is just beautiful, really, amazing stuff you guys do each year... wow”.
Hearing and seeing this angered me because it was a slap in the face to everyone present, dead or otherwise, to say it's “beautiful” to see things that represent dead young people who died for a lie. Albeit to say, he didn't stick around very long once I made eye contact with him...
And this is my point: recognize your selfishness, let go of your ultimate psychological defenses that prevent you from feeling the sadness related to the deaths of these young people. Feel their life, their pain, their loss, their families loss, the loss of the indigenous people who lost their lives in the countries we're occupying. And if you can't think of what to say when all of this overwhelms you, don't say anything at all, just listen.
If you don't want to feel this way anymore, get involved with organizations that are DOING SOMETHING, and help the service members who are still alive.
Take this day to reinvigorate your resolve to continue the fight against the oppression our government is subjecting not just it's own people to, but the rest of the world as well. Don't let their deaths be in vain.