Monday, May 29, 2006

False memorials


Near Kabul, a US convoy crashed into some cars while merging onto a highway after leaving Bagram, killing a few motorists and setting off a day of Road Rage Rioting. The interesting thing is how organized it seems to have been, with a demonstration in place to greet the convoy (and to be shot up in turn) as it reached its destination, which can’t have been more than 5 miles away.

There’s a new mass hunger strike at Guantanamo, dismissed by a Gitmo spokesmodel as an “attention-getting” move. So they did it on a holiday weekend? Commander Robert Durand, who is new to me, repeated the phrase of earlier Gitmo spokesmodels, that hunger striking is “consistent with al-Qaeda practice,” a phrase designed to smear without having to offer any proof of anything.

I might have left Memorial Day alone, except Bush used the day to hide (not for the first time) behind the corpses of American soldiers, to stand in front of ginormous flags,


to look all squinty and somber-like while standing next to men in uniform,


to look all squinty and somber-like while staring at flowers,



and to look all squinty and somber-like while staring at flowers and trying to figure out what to do with his fingers.


And then there’s the speech, dear God there’s the speech. After reading Haditha stories all week I’m not really in the mood to hear the dangerous fantasies about perfect saint-warriors that are the stock in trade of Memorial Day. Humans are complicated and messy, and it does them no honor to pretend to remember them by misrepresenting them as otherwise, to talk about how they all “answered the call to serve” (Greetings!) and how “All who are buried here understood their duty” and “understood that tyranny must be met with resolve” and “acted with principle and steadfast faith” (and automatic weapons) and whose deaths were all “sacrifices.” How do you mourn these figures of myth, when they’re not recognizably human? “On this Memorial Day, we look out on quiet hills, and rows of white headstones -- and we know that we are in the presence of greatness.” It is this sort of rhetoric that makes war seem clean and a worthy means of problem-solving, and which drives veterans who know that their actions and motives did not, because they are humans and not demi-gods, always match up to those ideals they are told they were supposed to have lived up to, to alcohol and violence and self-hatred and suicide.

Speaking of less-than-perfect humans, whoever transcribed the speech had it end, “May God Bless the Untied States of America.”

How much longer do I gotta stand here looking all squinty and somber-like?


Really, how much longer? I wanna ride my bike, and that brush won’t clear itself.

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