On our very American Memorial Day, as we remember fallen family and friends, let us be careful lest any tears in our eyes be selective.
Let our remembrance and compassion not be limited to our own. In our space age of instant communication, there is a growing awareness of one planetary humanity sharing our single world and its resources.
Let us remember that the non-American families and friends of non-Americans who have died in American wars have the exact same painful feelings of loss and bewilderment.
A million Koreans, thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghan women and children - every one of them is worth remembering on Memorial Day as well. Maybe even more so, because they died in their own country, most in their own towns, and many in their very own homes.
I surely want to remember those fellow veterans who gave their lives. But I believe the sincere American will want to remember everyone who died in these many foreign wars,including the 'foreigners'.
Life has taught this seventy-year-old veteran to reserve my deepest compassion for those of us veterans who followed immoral orders, and didn't have the presence of mind or education to refuse to follow those orders. Like the poor pilot who dropped an atomic bomb incinerating almost a million civilians in Hiroshima, and went half-crazy afterward. He did not serve his country well, nor the cause of freedom, and certainly not his own human conscience.
I have compassion for Veteran, now Senator, McCain who flew 29 bombing missions knowing that Eisenhower had written in his book that if there were an all Vietnam election (blocked by the US) that Ho Chi Minh would have won by a plurality of more than 80%. But McCain was just following military orders like an unthinking automaton.
Compassion for a Veteran and presidential candidate, John Kerry, who said he killed South Vietnamese before realizing it was wrong.
Compassion for former Governor, Senator, now President of New School University, Bob Kerrey, who on "60 Minutes" was exposed by his own point man of having had his Seals gun down 19 young women and children, after seeing to the throat cutting of an elderly man and his family, compassion for his having accepted a medal for doing it, under the report of 'enemy' successfully killed.
Did these three now highly placed Americans serve us when they killed? They all had a college education, which must have included a history of colonialism, especially the brutality of French colonial subjugation of the Vietnamese. They must have known that Ho Chi Minh was decorated by our OSS as a dedicated ally of ours against the Japanese and Vichy French. They must have known that Truman, against Roosevelt's promise, had brought the French army back in US ships to fight an 8-year war against our former allies, the Vietnamese. All this, because Ho Chi Minh was a communist? I don't think so. A top cabinet minister of our ally, the French government was also a communist, but that was OK.
My heart goes out more to these famous American fellow Veterans more than for those Indochinese peasants they killed. The dead -- especially those who died innocently-- they must be free now. They are honored by their relatives, and any compassion from us for the Vietnamese comes horribly late and is even suspect.
Six of my bunkmates in basic training are buried in North Korea. I can shed tears for them, they were young men - they wanted to live just as all the Korean relatives of my Korean students would have rather lived than die in a war over the economic confrontation of our country with the Soviet Union.
Veterans who loved their country enough to know what the fighting was about are one thing. Veterans who gave their lives fighting for injustice and against human respect, blindly following a leader are quite another.
The world has become increasingly complicated and yet our corporate conglomerate cartel of a mass entertainment media has become increasingly reductive, simplistic and antidemocratic, and I have compassion for those who work to make war acceptable, even attractive to their audiences.
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