Memorial Day! What Does It Mean?
By S. Brian Willson, May 1, 2000; updated 2014
Our moral integrity and political wisdom require that we study the past so as to prevent its indignities from recurring. –Klemens von Klemperer, Prof Smith College, Northampton, Mass., April 1985
Whoever fears to look his own past in the face must necessarily fear what is to come. –Vaclav Havel, Czechoslovak President, 1990
American historylessness is the desiccation of any sense of communal responsibility for the initiatives undertaken in our name. We exist outside history and outside the present world as well, in a kind of eerie detachment. –Lawrence Weschler, 1987
Memorial Day: The beginning of the commercial days of summer while planning holiday travel, or a time for reflection about why so many soldiers (and civilians alike), have given their lives in war? Years after returning from Vietnam, I wondered why more than 58,000 of my peers gave their lives in Southeast Asia, while killing more than 6 million Asians? Had these short-statured people living in ancient cultures 8,000-9,000 miles from our homes possessing virtually no military technology ever really threatened us? Were all those lives taken in vain?
Over the course of our history, about 1,145,000 U.S. mostly men have died after being ordered into battle. In the twentieth Century, it is believed that between 170 million human beings, the majority civilians, have died in wars. And the wars continue!
When Civil War widows first decorated graves for their dead husbands in May 1866 it was considered a solemn moment. Well into the Twentieth Century, Memorial Day remained a special moment for reflection on the extraordinary number of human lives our country’s wars have permanently stolen from our families and communities. However, as the Century continued with ever more wars, it seems that it has become just another three day weekend to partake in holiday travel and the beginning of summer shopping. Perhaps we have sunk into the dangerous comforts of denial and avoidance.
It has become increasingly obvious that our own civilization has become a spoiled rotten nation without a moral rudder. Historically it was built on theft of Indigenous land at gunpoint, stolen labor of kidnapped Africans, and on hundreds of illegal and unconstitutional military adventures expanding our original territory while seeking cheap foreign resources, labor and markets. We continue to have nearly a quarter million troops stationed at as many at 725 major installations in thirty-eight countries, and as many as 300 other minor installations, with the most powerful air and naval forces to boot. We have covertly intervened thousands of times destabilizing dozens of countries while murdering millions of innocent people. We possess more nuclear, conventional, chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction, than the rest of the world combined. To the horror of the world we refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Our political plutocracy continues to be sold to the biggest bribers. Dramatic disparity of wealth and income separates the Haves from the Have-Nots. With but 4.6 percent of the world’s population, we consume nearly half the world’s resources while correspondingly spewing out the same percentage of the world’s pollution. From this extraordinarily consumptive western lifestyle, we are creating an ecologically mortal disaster. And as the 75% of the “Third World” are involuntarily squeezed with but 15% of the world’s resources, we send in the marines to secure “stability” when the poor revolt from their misery.
We spend more on military arms and wars annually, (now over $1 trilllion) than the rest of the U.N. Security Council combined. We control over fifty percent of the world’s arms market (more than the next 14 arms exporting nations combined) and provide military arms and training to 160 of the world’s 190 nations. It seems we strive to outdistance our own shadow in terms of military preparedness in a world with no other superpower. We are seriously pursuing a $60 billion missile defense shield that most experts conclude won’t work, though it will likely provoke a new arms race. The U.S. Space Command intends to militarily control space despite prohibitions by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
This is sheer madness! All this incredible security preparedness in order to maintain our selfish, disproportionate global privilege, even at the expense of the livability of our Earth, and of equal justice for all. Ironically, U.S. obsession with security has become, by far, the most dangerous threat to both our own and the world’s future!
As we decorate the graves on Memorial Day of those who fell in battle, I hope we have the courage to ask, why they fell!? Further, I pray that as we come to understand the history of lies and fabricated pretexts that our political leaders fed us to rationalize their wars, we will rise up to give birth to a genuine people’s democracy based on justice, honesty and respect for all life.
“PAYING THE PRICE FOR PEACE: The Story of S. Brian Willson & The Peace Movement” –
Directed by Bo Boudart –
Associate Producer Frank Dorrel
9-Minute Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKIjfUAnPvY&feature=player_embedded# <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKIjfUAnPvY&feature=player_embedded>
If you feel inspired to help get this important film finished, please send a donation to:
Beau Monde Image Foundation
PO Box 7395, Menlo Park, CA 94026
(This is a 501 C-3 organization. So it is Tax Deductable)
We are hoping that this film will be finished before 2015.
Bo has already interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, Father Roy Bourgeois, Medea Benjamin, Col. Ann Wright, Martin Sheen, Alice Walker, Kathy Kelly, Phil Donahue, Blase Bonpane, Ron Kovic, Ray McGovern, Charlie Clements, Charlie Liteky, Daniel Ortega, Camila Mejia (Iraq War Vet), Bruce Gagnon, Duncan Murphy, Leah Bolger (past president of Veterans For Peace), Elliot Adams (past president of VFP), David Swanson, Mike Prysner (Iraq War Vet), Jeff Paterson (Courage to Resist) & others.
Bo Boudart is a producer of wildlife, ecology, cultural, human rights, cultural, educational and science programs. He has initiated productions in Asia, Indonesia and Philippine Island Archipelagos, South America, Africa, Australia, the Arctic, the Caribbean, and throughout the United States. Boudart has produced documentaries, animations, educational, marketing and informational programs for distribution in all formats. Many of his programs have aired on the Discovery Channel, Public Television, Canadian Broadcasting, NHK Japan, French TV, and the Middle East.
Other Important Links for S. Brian Willson
Here is Brian’s interview on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman on October 28th, 2011: www.democracynow.org/2011/10/28/blood_on_the_tracks_brian_willsons
You can watch Brian’s 8-minute segment from my film: “What I’ve Learned About US Foreign Policy” at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Rkvl9XHCYU&feature=related All of Brian’s essays on his website are well worth reading at: www.brianwillson.com
Short Autobiography of S. Brian Willson: www.brianwillson.com/autobiography
You can also read about his new book: “BLOOD ON THE TRACKS: The Life & Times of S. Brian Willson”: www.addictedtowar.com/SBWillson.html
Brian’s Mantra is: “We Are Not Worth More. They Are Not Worth Less”