An e/immigrant’s reflections on Memorial Day

If you grew up in one country, and live in another, both of which repeatedly went to war against each other, Memorial Day is even more depressing.

Every country has its own version of why its young and most promising had to die, or were maimed for their lifetimes. Americans have a noble narrative: “to defend freedom” (although there are significant dissenters). Others have “for god and king”, “to defend our homes and way of life”, or, I’m sure, “to defend the will of Allah” or some other god.

They all sound good and plausible, as long as you haven’t lived Memorial Day from the perspective of another country. When you do, the pointlessness of it all is sickening.

Take this example. A 28-year old with a young wife, and father of two little girls, dies fighting the enemy. (For this example, I’m referring to my great-grandfather who died 100 years ago this week in World War 1.) Does it matter which country or which cause he died for? I’m sure, his “enemy” also had a 28-year old with a young wife and kids who died the same day. It’s a terrible tragedy in either case. Whatever he, or his enemy, “accomplished” by killing or be killed for their cause, was it really more important than for him to take care of customers in his inn, to sing a song, to dance a dance, to plant a tree, to move the world forward, to be a good dad to their kids?

It’s easy to say “they” are the bad guys and we have to fight them, and that’s why young people have to die. “They”, who “hate freedom” or “defile Allah” or whatever image is conjured up. But you know what, I have traveled to many countries, and I have never encountered anybody who was any less nice or helpful or less worth living than anybody from “my” country, or “my” religion, or “my” ethnicity, or “my” political persuasion. “They”, the enemy, are not black or brown or Muslim or German or Russian or whatever.

The people who need to be fought do exist, but only some of them are among the declared “enemy”. The people who need to be fought are those who stir up war passions and promote killing over reconciliation. The people who need to be fought are the “leaders” that we have permitted to destroy the futures of so many promising people by sending them to war, regardless which countries they supposedly fight for. Psychopaths is a better name for them than “leaders”. They are the enemy, and us letting them get away with it is the real reason we need to mourn so many good people on Memorial Day.

Fortunately, 51% of all people world-wide now “see themselves more as global citizens than citizens of their country”, according to a recent survey. This is great progress, as it makes it much harder for those psychopaths to inflame passions and infect good people with murderous passions to kill other good people in other countries. It makes war less likely, and it’s about time.

So on this Memorial Day, I’d like to mourn the many deaths, the many, many, pointless deaths of good people from all countries. And that we’ve been wrong about who our enemy is. It’s not the other guy. It’s the psychopaths who drum the drums of war.