Memorizing Why War Is Worth It

For some reason, saying these long-dead corpses at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, died for something good is supposed to make the above look like a holy scene, instead of a mass-murder scene.
That is after all why we memorialize the dead on Memorial Day—as I say, pretty much every Memorial Day, the whole point about remembering the dead is so that we anoint in blood the idea that filling up our national graveyards, with even more people sacrificed to the war gods, is a good thing.

In the beginning of this holiday, back when people were faced with the horrific task of trying to mentally process over 600, 000 750,000 dead (and millions of maimed physically and mentally) Americans in a catastrophic civil war, it became clear that at the least we could say, even if we weren't sure it was true, was they died for something.

That was particularly weird from the Southern view of things, since the something their dead had died for was mainly something pretty awful—slavery. Of course, no Southerner after a while would say that was what their dead died for. And even Northerners, who were trying to heal old wounds with their Southern brothers and sisters, wouldn't mention that the Southern army was a traitorous band, in support of a terrible goal—the continued enslavement of millions of human beings.

That Southern Americans are even still counted in the toll of American dead in the Civil War, instead of enemy dead, is a function of how much Americans wanted to do what they have never been able to do—forget that the Civil War ever happened.

Now, we decorate the dead with a big car race—indeed a lot of people probably think Memorial Day is to memorialize dead race car drivers from the Indy 500. We take off from work, eat and get drunk, and maybe we think about how our troops, always our brave troops, give us our rights, or some such nonsense.

But the thing we are supposed to take from the memorial part of the day is that sure, war is terrible, but a world of peace and no dead war heroes would be even worse! What would kids have to aspire to if that were the case? Peaceful achievement where nobody gets killed, ever? Really, lots of Americans are sickened right to their core at the thought that even one generation of Americans might escape without being drenched in the blood of war. They are that insane.

I close with the usual, my quotation from "The Americanization of Emily":

"It’s always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it’s always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades ... we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It’s the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows’ weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices."