Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Here in the United States it is Memorial Day. It is always celebrated on the last Monday of May and unless you work in a retail business, or the restaurant industry you more than likely get the day off. In theory we're honoring those who have died in all the wars the nation has fought. Many of us will do this by going to baseball games, or the beach while untold thousands will fire up outdoor grills, drink beer and woof down enough smoked meat to feed the entire population of Somalia for ten years.

That's not to say every American will ignore the significance of the day. Little American flags are by now fluttering in the breeze at grave sites all across the land. Speeches will be made by politicians and stories will be written by journalists about the high price of freedom and those brave souls who fought to protect it.

There are a lot of them. According to Wikipedia 1,321,612 Americans have died in combat throughout our history. If you throw in the number of wounded and those who died because of things like disease, or accidents the figure jumps to 2,717,991. In addition the site says 38,159 are listed as missing. Those living in the south will consider the numbers short, because it doesn't include confederate casualties in the Civil War. Most people tend to think it would raise the total by about 300,000, but no one is completely sure because the confederate states weren't very good at keeping those sort of records.

Wikipedia's casualty list encompasses 87 different wars, or conflicts fought by the armed forces of the United States over a 239 year span. Of course many people, among them Mexicans and Native Americans, can and do argue a sizable chunk of the combat had nothing to do with "freedom," or at least their freedom.

Of the 87 wars, one was a blatant and cold blooded land grab from Mexico. Another 21 were fought against Native American tribes, who, as we all know, were here first and doing perfectly fine without a country called the United States. Those campaigns began with the Northwest Indian War fought from 1785 to 1796--we got Ohio out of the deal--to the Sugar Point War fought against a band of Chippeweas in 1898. In between the government felt it necessary to fight those pesky Seminoles on three separate occasions alone. There were also wars against the Lakotas, Yakimas, Cayuse, Nez Perce, Utes, Arapahos, Cheyennes, and--oh hell--just about every tribe.

Over seas, between 1918 and 1920, we fought on two separate fronts in Russia, trying to influence the outcome of the Bolshevik Revolution. Prior to that we declared war on Spain in order to free the Cubans and as a side benefit the Filipinos. Then we had to turn around and fight the Filipinos because they were of the opinion we hadn't actually freed them at all. We occupied Haiti for a while in order to "protect American business interests." We did the same thing to Nicaragua three different times.

None of this is to question the courage, or sacrifice of individual members of the American armed forces. However, it is worth remembering on this day a lot of  soldiers, sailors, and marines paid the ultimate price for something far less glorious than our right to down a brewsky and eat a brat in any manner we see fit. Not to mention there are a hell of a lot of people both here and abroad who don't equate the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force with the word freedom.

Hey, it may not be the most patriotic thing to say, but it is the truth.

sic vita est


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