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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring Service, Because Freedom Isn't Free

Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day in that it honors all veterans, living and dead, for their service to our country and to the ongoing project of our greater freedom.

Given the awful neglect of so many of the wounded and suffering veterans of our many disastrously ill-conceived wars it is especially important in my view to set aside a day to honor them in this way, to viscerally remind Americans, if nothing else, that honoring their service and sacrifice, all too often under orders that were tragically misguided, cannot after all properly be confined to a single day's ritual devotions if we are to be honest with ourselves about it.

It is especially remarkable to note how often those who seem most eager to drive our nation into ruinous avoidable conflicts in the name of patriotism seem to be the very same ones who accuse those of us who would direct our collective attention to the shattering costs of these conflicts as unpatriotic for doing so. On Veterans Day, of all days, one would like to think this ugly and nonsensical gambit would be more likely to fail than at other times, as we all turn to face those very costs written on the bodies and expressions of those who have paid them most palpably.

And since on this day we are meant to honor the service of those who have devoted their energies and even their lives to the struggle to preserve and enlarge the space of our freedom I will add, by way of conclusion, that it is very fitting that we remember in our thoughts today not only those soldiers who fought and died on battlefields in our names, even when in the service of enterprises many of us disapproved and protested, but all those who struggled and suffered no less courageously for our freedom across the fraught span of our history in our streets and in our minds, the freethinkers, the abolitionists, the suffragists, the labor organizers, the socialists, the pacifists, the New Dealers, the Beats, the nonviolent protestors for civil rights, the Panthers, the hippies, the radical feminists, the environmentalists, the queer nationals and riot grrrls, the card carrying members of the ACLU, the multiculturalist theoryheads, the anti-globalizers, the netroots bloggers and citizen documentarians, and, oh yeah, all those community organizers, too.

On this day we honor you all, or at any rate we certainly should, all of you veterans, living and dead, for your service and for your struggle and for your sacrifice, and we will think of you all and draw on your accomplishments as we work in our own modest measure to build a bit more of the road we are progressing along as we go, together, peer-to-peer.

1 comment:

Kyle Parry said...

Mature words that help me see this is a day to honor the freedom that mature sacrifices bring.

(I can hear my mother wanting to include the all "radical mothers" in your list of sufferers for our freedom.)