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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/26/09

The "Ultimate Sacrifice" vs. the minimum sacrifice...thoughts after Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is a day to honor the people that died in past wars. If you turn on the TV that day you'll see parades and old movies about soldiers and the battles they fought, with scenes of them running through fields in slow motion to trumpets as they make "the ultimate sacrifice".

But is this something to celebrate?

I'm writing this piece on my day off from work for the average guys out there in the real world caught in the middle of all that's happening, doing their best to do the right thing and survive at the same time. Soldiers without strong political leanings, who joined the service to support a family, or to get out of an economic situation and make a better life for themselves. Yes, I know there are some soldiers that do bad things...misguided souls that either snap under the horrible pressure they're under or who had problems to begin with before they joined the service...and I never hesitate to shed light on the evils that these men do when they happen, or highlight their deeds as another tragedy of war and another reason why we shouldn't be in it.

But I'm not writing this piece for them.

Americans over here, (meaning not "over there") like to utter statements like, "you join the army, you better be prepared to fight and die" when they dismiss those who argue against soldiers being needlessly killed. What they fail to recognize is that soldiers don't join the army to die...they join to protect America if ever threatened, knowing that they could die in the process . Whether what happens in war is noble or not, whether the reasons for fighting the war are really over national security or something more sinister, it's the belief in the justness of their cause that prompts most soldier to enlist.

To put it another way, if you legalized the mafia and asked these same men and women to sign up and fight for the most dominant crime boss, how many do you think would volunteer? Probably not as many.

And while it's their job to fight for us "over there" if need be, it's our job to protect them "over here" from the soulless elite who pull the strings of foreign policy, the callow politicians who are vigilant with their status but not their responsibility, and the chest pounding pundits making up for their own shortcomings by cheerleading the unseen bloodshed of other people.

Sure, war happens. Evil is a part of human nature and sometimes the last resort is the only option. But it isn't very often, and it certainly wasn't the case with Iraq. How many people who supported the war at the beginning, like me, still got the same sinking feeling I did when hearing Shepherd Smith of Fox proudly boast as Baghdad was blitzed, "...and the Pentagon says, we haven't see nothin' yet!"

Or when they splashed the pictures of Saddam Hussein's sons on TV after they were gunned down. Again, these were evil men, no doubt, but even for people who agreed with the war, why were they happy that this "had to be" done? Would the same person cheering their deaths be happy when hearing that a rabid dog had to be put down?

Why do we celebrate the breakdown of humanity? Why don't we remember it the same way we would a horrible earthquake or pandemic? Some argue that we shouldn't turn the other cheek when punched in the face. Fine, that's your stance on war. But do we have to smile when recalling how we knocked out the other's guy's teeth?

We cheer when our enemies are killed, but do our soldiers cheer? Why are there so many veteran suicides? Why are there so many alcoholics at the local VFW? For us at home, we go on with our lives and turn to another channel, but these guys live with with it for the rest of their lives, whether it be through the painful memories of what they saw or did, or the dismemberment or disfigurement that they come home with.

All around America people are celebrating...most of them celebrating the fact that they have the day off from work. Though we take this liberty, truly we don't have a right to it. Not while the "mission" is still open-ended and being expanded, not while the "change" America was promised is revealed to be no more than a change of face but not of policy. We say we honor the dead, but what do we do to prevent there from being more of them? Are our soldiers the pagan sacrifice that we have to make every decade or so to liven our history and relieve us of our duty as citizens to stand up to those that lie to us in order to start these messes?

Maybe I'm hard on the average citizen, and there are indeed many working hard and doing what they can to protest, but out of a nation of over 300 million they're not enough. Here we are 7 years later and the war continues. Those of you casually reading this who like to talk about how they're sick of the war and badmouth those who still support it, what are you doing...other than feeling good about yourselves? Just like the old World War Two poster trying to play upon the macho insecurities of young men to push them into enlisting, perhaps we should have a new one reading "Daddy what did you do to bring our soldiers home?"

A citizenry with a majority that dances the middle line and "doesn't want to think about depressing stuff" or "doesn't want to get political" is a sure fire way to ensure that nothing will ever really change, and that those who learn the lessons of this needless war will someday die and fade away so that their children can learn the same lessons of a future needless war.

Being helpless to the powers that be is a choice, not a circumstance...especially here in America. We talk about our soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice, but what about the rest of us making the minimum sacrifice? What it takes for the individual is a first step...a blog, a myspace page, arranging a protest, writing a congressman, hounding a politician at a public event...just do it if you really want to see something happen.

The truth is, sadly enough, that those of us in the "alternative media" are the only hope this country has left, and the only hope our soldiers have of coming home. But writing blogs on the internet isn't enough. For us to succeed the majority of Americans that are against this war have to make themselves vocal. Not just with words on a screen but with visible solidarity that is constant, along with a will that shakes the knees of our supposed "leaders", recreatiing the American citizen once more as a being to be feared by its government.

Stop the lie. Stop the murders. Stop the war. Only the actions of the majority will do it.

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Andrew Steele is the editor of America 20xy-- an independent news service that highlights articles from around the web focusing on international and economic policy, and human rights abuses. The mission statement for the page is a quote from Thomas (more...)
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