Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day

My grandmother was born in the 19th century, so she called it "Decoration Day." It was a holiday created after the Civil War, when Americans were expected to go to the burial places of the war dead with flowers and flags — to remember their sacrifices.

Of course, even during the Civil War, the poor and working class did most of the fighting. A rich man could pay some immigrant or field hand to fight in his stead when called. The World Wars, it seems, were somewhat more democratic — although the rich fell naturally into the officer corps, while the poor crawled on their bellies through the mud. In the Vietnam era, the better educated found ways to stay out of the fight, if not the war.

Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney and I found ways to avoid the draft. George W. Bush, Richard Blumenthal, and quite a few of my friends and relatives managed to snag non-combatant reservist positions which allowed them to claim they "served their country."

Today, post-draft, the separation between civilian and military cultures dwarfs the Grand Canyon. How are we supposed to successfully oppose neo-imperialist military involvements when there isn't even a threat of our own (educated, middle class) children being drawn into personal danger?

Maybe we need to reinstate the draft — even though military leaders seem to prefer their self-motivated, FOX indoctrinated, all-volunteer army. Maybe. Given the history of draft evasion, though, it's not likely to bring any significant change.

So what's the answer? Beats me. Given the state of the economy, it might be possible to raise the standards required for enlistment. Maybe we could find a way to connect military service to the forgiveness of student debt.

One thing, though, is certain: separating the vast majority of our citizens from our soldiers can only serve to perpetuate war. If the vast majority never feels the war, the war never has to end.