You probably all know that today, Memorial Day, started out life as Decoration Day, a day on which the widows and children of our glorious Civil War dead would traipse out to graveyards to clean the places up and to place some flowers on the countless tombs therein.
I know that there are times when I seem like a knee-jerk anti-war leftwing queer. And, for the most part, I am. But I also know the necessity of fighting the good fight when necessary. And I'm the first to say that we should, immediately, reinstate National Service for all able-bodied youths for a year or two.
But no less a personage than General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1939 to 1945 and architect of the postwar Marshall Plan, had personal serious doubts about the American public's willingness to support WWII, if it were to continue on into 1946. That was why he was such a forceful proponent of the use of the atomic bomb against Japan. He did not believe that a democracy would support all out war for longer than 4 years. Neither, frankly, do I.
When I'm being rational (arguably, rarely) I know that public mood is a fickle mistress and probably a piss-poor way to try to plan long-term public policy. The day after September 11, 2001, most of us would've (probably) happily handed a blank check to any warmonger who promised us retribution on a grand scale.
Unfortunately for us, and our armed forces, that warmonger turned out to be George W. Bush, probably the most incompetent, pig-headed, fool we could've found for the job, even if we'd deliberately set out to find one.
Six years later, and still no sign of Osama bin Laden (remember him?), but we have managed to thoroughly trash Iraq and, worse, probably the entire balance of power in the Middle East... and NOT to our advantage, either.
I suspect that there might be a few men and women in our national cemetaries who, if asked today, if Viet Nam or Iraq had been worth dying for, would have serious doubts that their lives had been sacrificed "for a worthy cause."
Nevertheless, today is not about calling into question the value of their missions but, rather, the mere fact that they were willing to perform them simply because they had been asked. That speaks volumes about their valour and patriotism.
And it is that valour and patriotism that we remember today, and their's are the souls whom we should remember in our prayers tonight.