During my evening constitutional — 3.8 miles of encouraging the bone marrow to pump out neutrophils — I visited Rochester’s Soldiers Field, where there is a large and attractive memorial to fallen vets. I believe that those who have “given their lives for their country” are worthy of respect and appreciation.
However, I have mixed feelings about memorials like this one. Some memorials simply honor the fallen, such as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They are respectful and moving without glorifying wars and feeding the likelihood of more wars and deaths. With this memorial, on one hand, I want to respect those who have given their lives or been maimed, physically and psychologically, in the belief they were serving their country. We’ve had wars when that belief will stand historical and international scrutiny; other wars, especially more recent, are rather doubtful on that account.
Yet this memorial is as much a glorification of war as a memorial to the dead. All wars that the USA have fought are portrayed in glowing terms, as if there was little downside, perhaps distracting from the names trodden underfoot, even in cases when it admits that the USA fought against another country’s independence (the Philippines in 1898). I wish we could both honor the soldiers and regret the wars, their violence, the loss of life, the injustices, the terror, and the dishonest patriotism that often stokes them. I wish we as a nation, and other nations as well, could be honest about the full picture of war and what causes them. One-sided patriotism practically insures that more wars will be fought and certain segments of the population will be unjustly called to fight them.
Let us memorialize those who have sacrificed and not the wars that killed them, unless we are willing to face the full reality of war.
A post by Doug McGill on the opening of this memorial.
Btw, still neutropenic.