Monday, May 26, 2014

The National Memorial Day Concert...

The stories, the narration, the visitations, the choreography, the stars, the hoopla, the singing, the appearances of General Powell, a narration preying upon emotions, words of 'family,' pride, prayer, remind one of that basic kernel of All Quiet on the Western Front.  Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori.  And one is not faulting the people who are the victims, brave, of the world of conflict, the wars one nation feels obliged, out of PR, and identity, to enter into or start or feel obliged to begin.  Pop artists sing pretty, and patriotically, as if death could be soothed by a tuneful voice in the shape of a star who fits an archetype role related to a dead or injured soldier.

Enemy fighters, "insurgents," bad guys... terrorists, those are the ones on the other side.  And all powers are used to summon those worth fighting against.  D-Day...

But what if Americans stayed home?  Would it be all that bad?  Would the Taliban come and kill us all?  Or is it rather that we don't make any friends around the world when we send in troops with guns to tell other people how to run their own lives with our democracy?  How unpatriotic that seems, to wonder, to depart from the narration of Memorial Day Concert, American's sons and daughters.

Lincoln's prose and phrasing seem useful to such narrations, such blind patriotism, and I wonder how he would feel about such things.  His calculus, over a particular issue, allowed a great war.  But enough, he would have said, that one was enough, no more, no more blind patriotic fanfare justifying the excesses of military spending, the numbers of crippled wounded and dead, the excesses of stirred emotions a la Hitler one finds here in some seemingly innocuous form.

Still, we can sing God Bless America and mean it, without excess.

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