Nov 11, 2008

A Note on Veterans' Day

It's not enough to just get the day off to rest and do whatever we want. These holidays, rare as they are (particularly when you compare with the Indian calendar loaded with many holidays for its many peoples), should be a time when we think about what it is that we're celebrating. I don't know the history of Veterans' Day, but I know that in a time when constant, unending war seems commonplace for the American, we're still largely untouched by what our government is waging. Our perpetual state of war is different from that of the nations on the receiving end, or places like Palestine or Sri Lanka.

But where that toll is visible is in the faces, the stories, and the lost innocence and lives of soldiers who have given up everything in the belief that they were fulfilling a patriotic duty. Not all soldiers are perfect, but most of them are quite young, and regardless of their rationale or that of the nation to send them in harm's way and off to fight, it's hard not to get choked up when you think about what they and their families have given up. I am a pacifist: I don't believe there is any "good" war. I suppose there are times when one can argue that war is necessary, but it seems to me that it's always been a small group of people in control that either cause the harm that must be dealt with, or who send off the troops to do the dealing.

If we dealt with those people directly, millions of innocent people - the soldiers included - would not have to die or lose faith in human motives and judgment. It's a large price to pay. Even in movement work, many times we use the lexicon, the metaphor, the iconography of war: I am guilty of the same thing, and many of the radical groups I listen to or read use "soldier" and "battle", perhaps to reclaim the terms.

But I don't believe in war - real, imagined, or otherwise. I want to build, and I want to use words that come from places of strength, love, and peace. So as we remember veterans today and in the years to come, perhaps we can also take some time to challenge this culture of war - from the words and images we use to describe our work, to the way in which we imagine movement work as a whole.


Anonymous said...

Great post, brother. I recently had the privilege of watching this show "Generation Kill," an HBO mini-series about the first 30 days of the US invasion of Iraq (my parents' middle class home has HBO, and I definitely take advantage when I am home). It was made by the creators of "The Wire" (another awesome show) and really made me think about what it's actually like to be on the ground during times of war and the toll it enacts on soldiers. I hope one day humanity moves beyond these acts of destruction, but at the same time, I hear you on cautioning us on the left not to just alienate and distance ourselves from those folks who have actually experienced first hand the culture of warfare and violence that we often rally against.

Rage said...

I've gotten through 2 seasons of "The Wire" and had to slow down because I didn't want it to end. It's just an incredible series.

I actually watched 3-4 episodes of "Generation Kill" the night between the two days of the bar exam. It was really interesting - I wish I had HBO to see the end of it. But I definitely appreciate the reference.

And yeah - not to sound self-righteous. Though the posts I'm hoping to put up soon about the "immigrants' rights movement" are going to sound even more self-righteous, and you know what? That's okay as long we're open, enit?

Thanks for dropping in, brother.

Anonymous said...

Preach on, brother man.