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Remembering The DeadJerry West Salem-News.com
Lives are not given in war, they are taken.
(GOLD RIVER, B.C.) - Yesterday was Memorial Day in the United States where I happen to be. Its origins lie in the Civil War and it was first proclaimed in 1868 by the Grand Army of the Republic to honor the Civil War dead.
Eventually it spread, became official and was changed to honor those Americans who died fighting in all US wars. Remembering those who have been killed in war is an important act of reflection.
What it should not be is a propaganda tool to glorify war or to cover over the national history of aggression and conquest.
Most Memorial Day speeches are instruments of propaganda filled with the usual bumf about the sacrificing of lives to preserve freedom and democracy. They dishonor the many whose lives were squandered fighting in places and for causes that had nothing to do with keeping the nation either free or democratic.
Of all the wars that the country has engaged in, few have been noble causes to protect freedom or democracy. The Revolution certainly brought freedom, and one may argue that the War of 1812 preserved it, despite the failed attempt to conquer Canada.
The Civil War against the Southern traitors did preserve the Union and freed the slaves to a degree.
The Second World War against the Nazis certainly had to be fought once it was unavoidable; it can be credibly argued that freedom and democracy were at stake there - as Hitler’s fascist ideology swept across Europe - and even had followers in the United States.
And the Korean War, though not in defense directly of either the freedom or democracy of the United States, was a test of the United Nations, whose success may well be a preservative of freedom and democracy.
Most of the other wars were unnecessary if defending freedom and democracy is the gauge for deciding whether to have a war or not. Slaughtering the native population and stealing their land in the various Indian Wars was a crime by modern standards. And, grabbing land from Mexico and Spain had nothing to do with protecting the nation. The same can be said for the First World War, Vietnam, Grenada, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.
All needless killing, if freedom and democracy were the purpose.
The one thing that does ring true in the propaganda is when it is said that the American way of life is being preserved. It is a way of life that is built on the exploitation of other peoples around the world through the extraction of their resources.
It is also a way of life that benefits the wealthy far more than the rest. Defending this way of life is really defending the power and control of big corporations and the people who run them. There is nothing noble in this.
So, on Memorial Day we should honor those who died, the Second World War vets who actually were defending freedom and democracy, and remember all the others who were either duped, forced, or went gladly to kill people for the convenience of the oil companies and other commercial interests, including those industries that provide all of the necessities of war and grow fat off of the deaths of Americans in the armed forces. We should remember them in sorrow for their vain sacrifices, and ask ourselves how much longer will we allow this needless waste of life and material to go on.
Jerry West grew up on a farm in Fresno County, California, and served with the US Marine Corps from 1965 to 1970 including 19 months in Vietnam with the Third Marine Division, and three years at MCAS Iwakuni where he became an anti-war organizer in 1970. He earned an Honors Degree in History at the University of California, Berkeley, and did two years of graduate study there. While in university he worked seasonally in fire and law enforcement with the US Forest Service.
After university he worked for a number of years in the international tour industry in operations and management before moving to a remote village on the west coast of Vancouver Island where he is currently the editor and publisher of The Record newspaper serving the Nootka Sound region. He is a Past President of the Northern California Land Trust, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
You can email Jerry West, Salem-News.com Writer, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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