A Dollar Fifty Patriot
or why I don’t celebrate memorial day)
Monday is officially Memorial Day. This weekend, however, our nation’s beaches will be full of laughing half-naked tourists looking to shake that pale, white tone of skin they earned through a winter full of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Superbowl dinners. The stores will be full of shoppers eager to make a penny on a buck savings on cheap, dime-store plastic items they really don’t need. Backyards will be spent grilling and barbecuing cholesterol laden foods which will inevitably cause a night’s worth of painful indigestion. Alcohol will be consumed by the gallons to be rewarded by a Monday or Tuesday morning hangover. All to remember our fallen dead.
Memorial Day is to be celebrated as a day of remembrance; to honor those who have fallen in the service of our country. Originally started to remember the dead of the Civil War, the holiday has grown to encompass all of the wars of the 19th, 20th ,and now 21st century. Overall, including the Revolutionary War, some 1.2 to 1.3 million men and women have answered the call and have paid the ultimate price for their country.
On Memorial Day, everyone feels patriotic. Flags, not ordinarily seen during the year, will come out in droves. Kids will paint their faces in red,white and blue colors and people will pat a veteran, one whom they probably never would have talked to otherwise, on the back to say, ‘good job’. Everyone can be a patriot and for a ‘buck fifty’ you can buy those cheap yellow decals to put on your car that says, “I support the troops”. For one day, everyone can feel as if they’ve done their part.
But have they?
It’s nice that you take a day to honor our serviceman who’ve died for our nation, even when our nation was in the wrong, but what about the other 363 days?
Ask anyone on the street if they know what happened in Iraq today and you’ll get a “I don’t know” answer. Ask about Afghanistan and you’ll get a response of ‘where’s that’?
Ask a person on the street how many have died in the Iraq War and you’ll get a range of answers from about a hundred to ten thousand (4,069 as of last week). But while they cannot remember how many fell in battle this month they sure as hell can tell you who is still standing on American Idol or how many rebounds a NBA player made or homeruns their first baseman hit.
You see, I don’t think that America is feeling the sting of this war enough. Other than having to pay over $4 bucks for gas, they just aren’t feeling this war as our parents and grandparents did in Viet Nam or the Second World War. I don’t see rationing of any kind. I don’t see posters asking you to buy war bonds. I don’t see recruiters on the streets or a lottery being held to determine the draft. I do, however, see a lot of people at Starbucks and with heavy shopping bags at local malls.
Where’s the love?
“I support the troops” this funny, little decal, made in China, says but do you really? When is the last time you even visited a military base? When is the last time you ever visited a hospital to comfort the wounded? Do you even know that many returning veterans are still not receiving the care they deserve? How about our troops in the field? How are they?
While we come home to the safety of our homes, our soldiers live in the field, sleeping on the ground, in the cold, dusty, hard sands of Iraq and Afghanistan. Showering is a luxury and hot meals ever more while people back home are stopping off at McDonald’s on their way home or stuffing themselves at Red Lobster.
Patriotism is much more than waving a red, white and blue flag or having a yellow decal on your car. It’s much more than voting Republican or joining the American Legion. It’s much more than talking big at a bar, fueled by alcoholic liquid courage, about how many Iraqis you’d kill if you were there. If you belief in it that much, you should do something about it.
Talk, my friends, is cheap.
Patriotism, my dear, unforgiving countrymen, is about sacrifice which very few are willing to perform.
Sacrifice means giving up something freely for another. In America, I just don’t see much of that. You may call me bias, but as I walk through the Center City portion of Philadelphia, that famed City of Brotherly Love, I am still ashamed of the growing number of homeless people which many of us here pass on by without a second glance. By the way, the number of homeless veterans (Iraq and Afghanistan) is growing at an alarming rate. It stands currently at 1 in 4 but looks to go even higher.
So, I ask, where is your support?
Employers continue to look the other way at a returning vet. Why? Because they are afraid of having to pay the bill if our returning soldier should suffer effects of PTSD or incur a recurring health problem. It’s better just not to hire them than to have to get involved. So, our vet, our returning hero, comes home to no job, finding himself collecting unemployment and welfare. In an instant, he went from hero to bum.
Where is your support?
Why are there no cries when our President refuses to grant a GI Bill to repay those who’ve served their country with benefits to go to college? Why are people not ringing the phones off the hooks of our Senators and Representatives? Why aren’t people holding our politicians responsible for how our vets and soldiers are being treated?
I just don’t think you are getting it people.
But, I guess people need to feel their comforts; to be a part of something even when they are not. They need to drown themselves in a 12 pack of Bud or a face full of hamburger. They need to walk around with blinders on. To continue living their lives as if nothing is wrong. To wrap themselves around their flag and bang their drums and talk their talk of devotion and duty from the safety of their home.
That dollar fifty patriot must sure feel good about themselves.
I can’t celebrate Memorial Day anymore. It’s a fake holiday with a fake sense of patriotism. I won’t celebrate it because I feel that we should be remembering our soldiers every day and not just once a year.
America, be proud!
Welcome home boys! Fire up the grill!