What do you do on Memorial Day?

November 12, 2007

*Warning: This post is not funny nor is it tongue-in-cheek.  I apologize for this brief lapse and promise to return soon with something silly or wacky.*

Sitting in synagogue on Saturday I was taken by a brief presentation made by a gentleman in commemoration of Veteran’s day.  He read the names of the known Jewish soldiers who had been killed in combat in Iraq and recited some relevant verses from the Hebrew Bible about those fallen in war.  I appreciated the somber mood this man evoked and that he did so without being preachy about the merits or demerits of this particular war, or war in general for that matter.

The man’s plea for the solemn observance of Veteran’s Day made me think about the military, how it is imagined by us as citizens, and its role in politics.  Anti-war politicians are burdened to prove they are not anti-military.  I don’t think it’s unrealistic to assume that many Salad readers are against the war and have been for some time.  Yet while we may be critical of specific military actions or policies, most of us would consider it taboo to openly criticize the soldiers burdened with the actual fighting (and rightly so, no?).  As Americans we are taught to respect the kind of self-sacrifice necessary to be a soldier, yet with the military’s professionalization in recent decades some of us may have come to see it as an undesireable job reserved for the poorly educated and those without any other opportunities.

So how should we commemorate Veteran’s Day?  Or should we?  How do we balance our pro-peace or anti-war (or however else we conceive our political) convictions with the due owed to the people in the past and present who die or put themselves in danger willingly in our behalf?  Any and all musings on the subject are welcome.

3 Responses to “What do you do on Memorial Day?”

  1. Annie Says:

    I’ve always been a big proponent of greater celebration of Veterans Day, in part because it is actually armistice day.

    The US sort of ignores WWI because we weren’t so involved, but to do so flies in the face of modern European history. It seems a little strange that so little importance is placed on World War I, when it was the beginning of the modern European nation.

  2. JT Says:

    Any comments on George W. Bush being in Crawford, Texas and not present at Arlington National Cemetery?

    One in four veterans is homeless.

  3. Rabbi Dr. Professor Jurgen Haverstam, DHL Says:

    Good point. During the Kerry campaign it was emphasized by some that for all of Bush’s talk of being a “war” President and his party’s claims to being so military-friendly they had in fact slashed veterans’ benefits. Maybe the right/the Republicans as the natural friends of the military is a canard. Maybe the image doesn’t align with fact. Then again, maybe it was just campaign politicking by the Democrats and Bush simply continued a policy put in place by Clinton. Who knows? I appreciate both comments – they’ve given me food for thought. My school is participating in a program that sends care packages to soldiers so I’ve found a way to honor the holiday/assuage my guilt/do whatever it is that we do when we do these kinds of things.

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