By: Wayne Brown
Yet another Memorial Day passes into the history books here in this year 2012. Like all those before it, we, as a nation, pause to pay tribute to those who have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country…their future and their life. Though we pause to recognize that effort on their part, we offer little in return and it seems that our gratitude and understanding of such a great sacrifice grows more calloused with time. Those who have worn those military boots and shoes know the honor of service but often spend their time dwelling on those who served but were not so lucky. It is difficult for them to answer that old gnawing question, “why them and not me?”
War is a terrible thing. No one knows that fact better than the American soldier. Without a doubt it is one of the worst traits of humanity for in it man shows his kinship with the animal world testing who among the strong will survive in the end and showing little or no remorse for killing those who oppose it. For some, there is little or no choice for they are attacked by the aggressor. They can stand and fight for what they believe and what they have invested themselves in for many years or they can lay down their arms and submit to those who would wage such an attack to achieve dominance. Given that scenario, maybe war is inevitable for mankind as long as some portion of humanity envies what another portion possess.
In its simplest form, war is a disagreement between two people which extends to all people within their charge and motivation. The anger and disagreement of the two principles is then imprinted on the populous such as to spread that anger to each individual bearing a weapon. The goal is to make that disagreement at the individual level just as strong for each of them as it is between the principles. In the end, those representing both sides use this emotion as the driving basis to kill each other on sight. Of course, all of that emotion is packaged in an atmosphere of training, discipline, and the threat of punishment for those who cannot carry out the orders as they are handed down. In the end, the choice of life or death is made at the highest level and handed down to the lowest.
War is also a realistic circumstance which cannot be avoided if the aggressors elect to ignore diplomacy and reason. At some point, those who are on the receiving end of those transgressions must either stand and fight or vacate the grounds they call their home. War, in this perspective, then is about principle, right and wrong. It is about the last resort in stopping some out of control aggression from wielding its dominance over a weaker population of people. It is a statement of intent…we will stand and fight for what is ours and for our beliefs as a people.
While still considered a strong and capable military force in the world, America is no longer the country that it once was in terms of war. As a population, we have lost our stomach for it. For many, there are no principles, no grounds, no beliefs worth defending with human blood and suffering. In past wars, the people of the USA watched in silence as thousands of young soldiers perished in a matter of minutes while assaulting the beaches of Normandy, France. This act of desperation was the last bastion of hope in stopping the Nazi machine and containing the slaughter which it promised. Thousands more died on the beaches of small islands in the Pacific attempting to stop that same aggression on the part of Japan. Again, America waited in silence and mourned those who had paid the price for progress in that war. It is no wonder the celebration was so great when that bloody war ended.
In the modern world, far too many of us believe that war can be waged with technology and not human blood. We believe that aggression can be stopped at a distance without contact or emotional suffering. We can kill the other man but we do not have to watch him die. On that basis, far too many in our population believe there is no need for soldiers on battlegrounds anymore. The soldier can be replaced by the technology. If that truth is ever reached, war will certainly be much easier to wage for those nations desiring to engage in it. The truth of the matter is that war is still very much about “boots on the ground” and “occupying strategic positions”. Though we have great levels of technology, none of it is as effective as the American soldier in getting the job done. All the science has yet to uncover a technology as potent as the American soldier in any situation. That truth will outlive the vast majority of us who populate this world.
Today, one would question whether America could take on such an effort, suffer such losses, and still sustain the momentum and support of the people to continue on to the final victory. Today, we have communications systems which serve the events up within minutes of their occurrence. Today, we have a media that breeds contempt for most every issue and certainly would find little to applaud in terms of the courage and bravery of the American fighting man in World War II. On the contrary, today’s media would be looking for every act within that effort that might point to the actions of an “evil empire” deadest on projecting its ideology on the rest of the world. In that assessment, the aggression of the Nazis and the Japanese would be lost on today’s front page story.
The lesson in this media perspective came through clearly in the Vietnam Conflict. Though technology was not comparable to today’s levels, it was certainly vastly improved over that of WWII. Americans were served up the events of the war on the dinner table each night. In the end, the media spent too little time questioning the purposes and goals of the involvement and too much time blaming those who had served their country for all that was not right in that effort. When it was all said and done, the American soldier was to blame for the outcome and the transgressions. Those who had paid the ultimate price were treated in the same light.
We have now reached a time in our history when, from a media perspective, there is no right or good time to defend America and if we do, we are wrong for trying. After the events of 9-11, Americans expected actions to be taken to offset the loss of 3,000 American citizens in that awful tragedy. Unlike wars of the past, the enemy was no so readily visible…he did not occupy particular ground…his existence was in an fanatical religious basis spread over the world by those who are convinced that America is an evil empire totally in violation of all the laws of Islam. The media damned a President for taking action in the act of fighting terrorism and that same media would have damned the same President for taking no action at all. There was no winning solution and once again the American soldier was painted a darker shade of gray in the press. Certainly the American public had learned a lesson in Vietnam and hopefully would never treat it soldiers in such fashion again. Still, the media could not help itself in questioning the direction of the American military in its war on terror.
Today, we have a society that is a greater melting pot of humanity than it has ever been. Millions have come to America seeking the benefits of living in this land but far too many of them have not embraced the values or the spirit of this nation that once fought so boldly to shake off the chains of oppression and tyranny. The common bond that pull us together as a people and weld us in resolve when times of war come are lacking to say the least. Through the actions of some in elected office with heavy support from the media, we are a nation immersed in political debate over class envy and warfare along with issues surrounding abortion, women’s rights, government intervention, environmental activism, and an ever-present effort to undermine our capitalistic structure. We no longer teach the fears of socialism, communism, Marxism, and the like to our children thus the promises of it are quickly embraced by them. Over time, we, as a nation, are losing our resolve; losing our ties to history; losing our common values, and eventually we will lose our way. Along with that, we will forget those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, justified or not, for the opportunities we have had as a people. Those changes are taking place before our eyes and as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow, they will come.
Our values are not so difficult to embrace. We were conceived as a nation on the basis of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Along the way, we disagreed on some matters of significance but in the end, we came together as a nation and a people and we took a direction that would continue to support our basic beliefs. For those who threatened those beliefs, we made provisions for our common defense and we showed the world that we were willing to stand and fight for that which was proper and right. Americans shed their blood on many battlefields of the world in support of those beliefs and in continuing an environment in which they could flourish. If, as a public, we are so easily convinced to give up on those principles, then all that blood is shed in vain, every last precious ounce of it.
For those mothers and fathers who have had that knock at the door which delivered the horrible news that their son or daughter had perished fighting in some far away land, the question will certainly always come to mind whether or not it was worth such a great loss personally. Most would probably say that it is not but most are also very proud that their loved one served the country to that final moment and they are most proud on a day such as this…Memorial Day 2012. Though we are a country immersed in controversy and torn in our values and goals, we can still take time to pause and offer a proud salute to the men and women who have so bravely sacrificed all in the support of this country. May we never forget their sacrifices and may we never allow anyone to convince us that our values and goals are not worth fighting for in the years to come.
©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.
28 May 2012