In the United States the last Monday in May is set aside as Memorial Day. It is a time when we the living are supposed to honor those who have died while fighting the nation's wars. It is a government sanctioned holiday, but thanks to capitalism and the greedy slugs who run it, millions of Americans are stuck working their asses off rather than meditating on the sacrifice of others. Of course, to be brutally truthful, most of us who aren't stuck behind a counter somewhere tend to pay little attention to the meaning of the day either. We just kick back and enjoy the time off.
A lot of uber patriots will tell you all the people who died in our wars did so defending freedom. While that's true in few instances, many of the conflicts the republic has engaged in didn't really have anything to do with defending freedom. Most, in fact, were fought to expand our territory at the expense of others, or defend countries run by questionable people who we deemed friendly to our political and economic interests.
Actually it gets rather complicated, not to mention baffling, when you take a look into the causes of most our wars--and there is a bunch of them to choose from. Wikipedia lists 79 different wars, or conflicts where the U.S. military took casualties. At least 23 were waged against various tribes of Native Americans. I say at least because it depends on your source and what you call a war. There are some experts out there who claim the government of the United States waged as many as 40 separate conflicts against the indigenous people of the continent.
But, let's face it, causes and motives are a matter for philosophers, historians, politicians, and other congenital liars. What we are concerned with here are hard numbers. The blood and bone statistics so to speak.
According to Wikipedia, 1,354,644 Americans troops have died in wars since 1775. The total rises significantly if an estimated 300,000 dead Confederates who fought in the Civil War are thrown in. Then there are nearly 41,000 who have been declared missing in action since WWI. Obviously there were MIAs prior to then, but The Great War was the first time anyone thought to keep track of them.
When all those numbers are put together they equal the total population of Idaho, plus about 12,000 extras from Washington, Oregon, or Montana. Take your pick.
As horrifying as our stats are however, when it comes to war casualties, the Europeans make us look like two bit shirkers. In WWI the French alone lost 1,397,800 dead. That's 43,000 more people than currently live in New Hampshire. In WWII it's estimated 10.6 million Soviet troops were killed--500,000 more human beings than now reside in North Carolina. The Germans on the other hand lost a little over 2,000,000 in WWI--everyone in New Mexico--then, two decades later suffered anywhere from 3.7 million to 4.4 million military deaths. That's equal to all the people in either Oklahoma, or Kentucky, although, to be honest, since the sons of bitches started both wars no one west of Nuremberg, or east of Potsdam really gives a shit.
Yes, I could go on, but what's the point? No one reflects on gruesome war time body counts while grilling bratwurst, or burgers on a sunny day. Why should we?
After all, for modern America war is a constant, low grade fever. We've been fighting in Afghanistan for 16 years. An American baby born the year we invaded is now driving a car and only two years away from being eligible to enlist.
Given such a reality, it is easier to shut it all out and chug a light beer from a cold, sweating can than dwell on the sacrifice and insanity, both of which are far too abundant, not to mention persistent.
Indeed, don't worry if you missed the solemn cemetery processions today. If history has taught us anything, it's that there will be more to come--a lot more.
sic vita est