The Gull Reef Club

11/11/2005

Veterans’, Armistice, Remembrance Day

Filed under: — Jaime @ 2:32 pm

As the last vestiges of the Veteran’s Day parade echo down Broughton Street, I sit in the comfort of my office to reflect on a day meant for that very action.

When I was a kid, I was a textbook example of patriotism – knowing all the words to the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution. I learned of the historic battles that affected the future course of this nation and even visited a number of them under the guise of family vacations. I uttered phrases like, ‘they died so I could be free’ and ‘making the world a safer place for democracy’ and honestly believed in them.

Somewhere along the lines my patriotic spark went out. I no longer think anyone died so I could be free. Yes, soldiers have died in wars and yes, I am (mostly) free. However, since we can never know what would have happened had there been no wars, I am no longer able to make a direct correlation between a heroic soldier’s death and my freedom. I wish I could. It’s a lot easier to stick to such a bumper-sticker absolute than it is to analyze and define the subtle nuances of war and freedom. Fortunately or unfortunately (I’m not sure which) intellectual honesty will not permit to be a bumper-sticker parrot anymore.

Thus, here in the present, I am left with the distinct and sickening thought of knowing soldiers are currently dying, but not really knowing why. I will not live to see the long-term effects of our current ‘war’ (see? I can’t even bring myself to call it a war). Will this ‘war’ prove to be a direct link to my children’s or grandchildren’s freedom? Will they be able to express themselves and enjoy their sovereignty more than I do because a willing 18 year old gave up his life today to an ephemeral enemy?

Maybe I should leave the waxing poetical to the poets. Carl Sandburg, king of poetry kings, does it better than me anyway:

And They Obey

Smash down the cities.
Knock the walls to pieces.
Break the factories and cathedrals, warehouses
and homes
Into loose piles of stone and lumber and black
burnt wood:
You are the soldiers and we command you.
Build up the cities.
Set up the walls again.
Put together once more the factories and cathedrals,
warehouses and homes
Into buildings for life and labor:
You are workmen and citizens all: We
command you.

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