We spend a lot of time “honoring” war heroes. We spend zero time honoring victims of war, especially the millions of dead non-combatants whose only fault lay in “being there” when war occurred. I’m deeply weary of people who can’t tell the difference between heroes and traitors. Anyone whose goal it is to slaughter as many of “the enemy” as possible is no hero. I also doubt they see themselves as heroes.
Honoring everyone isn’t history. History is history. Statues are not and I don’t think anyone looking at a statue is thinking historical thoughts. If you want history, read some books.
Many of our “historic heros” were mass murderers. So while we erect statues to them, how do we explain it to their families and the descendents of the people they slaughtered? Do they get at least an equal measure of honor or are they merely the forgotten dead, incidental casualties of conflict neither remembered or honored.
Charlie Madison’s speech:
I don’t trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It’s always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it’s always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades. We shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It’s the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows’ weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices. My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. Now my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. It may be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave.
When I was growing up, the Korean conflict was in progress. I remember listening with my mother to the radio reports about it. I understood more than I was able to express. Before I had a moment to catch my breath, we were back at it, this time in Vietnam. I objected to that war as did a big hunk of my generation. Did we end that war? I doubt we so much as shortened it by a day.
We have been in a continual war ever since. We move our armies, our weapons, like pieces on a RISK board. When we aren’t fighting the war, we are arming one side or the other — and sometimes, both sides because there’s a lot of money to be made in a war.
The inevitable result is nothing gained and much lost. World War II was a war we had to fight, but we set the stage for it when we drew up the terms to “end” WWI. WWII was just the second part of one very long and grisly war.
Maybe if humanity — all of us — were less military and more willing to find ways to solve world problems other than ongoing mass slaughter, we’d have a better planet and we’d all be better people.