Our family is one that has fortunately been spared the news that one of our own had been killed in action. We have had friends and somewhat more distant family members who have died in action. While not the same as a direct family member, friends and acquaintance deaths put a person into a thoughtful frame of mind.
About the first thing that passes through my mind when contemplating a death through war is whether or not it was worth it? Was this death, this ultimate sacrifice truly worth it? When we come back to review a war decades after it ended the question seems to be more stark. The Viet Nam war is four decades past. These days we are exploiting Vietnamese labor to under cut the cost of American labor. Our corporations are doing this while dealing with the governments in Viet Nam that are the direct descendants of the Communist governments that our government went to war with. In the long run, did that war accomplish anything.
Decades after the Civil War, soldiers form both sides would meet for picnics and other occasions to mark their service. At that time, at the turn of the 20th century, African American citizens would be the common enemy of both sides. Was it worth losing 650,000 of our own citizens and not solve one of the central questions that took us to War. Now fully a century and a half past the end of the Civil War we see many of the same problems again raising their ugly heads. It really causes a person to ask, why did we fight such a war?
While Memorial day is a day of remembrance for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country, my mind also wanders to another group in this country who are but pawns in some kind of a kabuki play of a war. I am speaking of the 30,000 Americans who are killed yearly by firearms in this country. Since the attack on the Newtown elementary school a year and a half ago, we have seen an average of one attack at some school weekly.
So many children have died for no reason. So many family members have been shot by other members of their families. People arm themselves to the hilt with weapons of war simply to go for a ride. We have a society that is literally a caricature of the old West where people fire first and then ask questions. Politicians and others in the public eye shake in their boots at the power of the NRA. Yet this country was not founded to be a lawless country where the biggest gun wins and intimidation replaces ideas. Even the vaunted 2nd amendment does not say that guns can’t be controlled. The initial clause of the second amendment states that keeping guns is tied with a militia:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State …..”
We have various days of remembrance for those who have died in service to the country. I believe that we should remember those who have died in what is a de facto war on our own citizens. Let us remember the victims in the elementary classroom who died needlessly, those who died based on “stand your ground” laws, children who died when a friend found a gun and pulled the trigger. There are literally hundreds of examples weekly. It is time that we as a country reflect on how we got to this sorry state.
I was 14 and staying overnight with a friend at the end of the school year. His parents owned a bar so they would be up late and so were we. It was Friday and school was out, so why not? About 2:15 we heard what we thought might be shots. Then the police cars came. Then one of the police came to get us. My friend’s father had been shot. He would soon die and his family’s life would change drastically. I was changed also. To this day I visit his grave at this time of year and just think “What a waste.” When will we ever learn?