Monday, May 30, 2005

Thanks

10
(Borrowed from the often satirical Jesus' General.)

I don't have a lot to say about Memorial Day. It's crushing that more than 1800 Coalition soldiers have died in Iraq, and it's hard to remember them without remembering the lies and liars that put them in harm's way. Remember also the roughly 12000 soldiers who've been wounded in combat in Iraq.

But we have to look back longer, to the soldiers who fought to create this country, farmers who worked the land, took up arms to make it free, and went home to harvest the crop. We have to remember the soldiers who finally freed the rest of the country in the Civil War, and the soldiers who brought freedom to the world more broadly in the World Wars.

Soldiers don't pick their wars, they fight where they're sent, and we should remember with pride each life dedicated to this country, while we fight here at home to make sure that no soldier dies for any but the best reason, and that soldiers receive the best care when they return home.

For a more cynical look, Phil Ochs' "Song of a Soldier." What's changed in 30 years?

And the flag draped coffins are a sailin' home
And the waves are watching as the engine drones
As the ship draws near, hear the bugle moan
The sad and silent song of a soldier

With a hero's greeting we will welcome him
With a hero's speeches we will honor him
With a hero's ending we will bury him
That's the sad and silent song of a soldier

And comfort his family with a telegram
"We regret to inform you we have lost a man"
But we gave him the highest medal of the land
That's the sad and silent song of a soldier

We know what an awful price he had to pay
But the enemy was contained for another day
We trained him well, he would have wanted it that way
That's the sad and silent song of a soldier

Oh the weary wounded they wait by his side
Wondering why they hadn't also died
The picture of patriotic pride
That's the sad and silent song of a soldier

And the flag is at half-mast wet with foreign rain
Ignored by the strangers he had helped to train
To him it was duty, to them a game
That's the sad and silent song of a soldier

At Arlington he is lowered down without a pause
And his native land welcomes him with open jaws
And the tombstone reads "Such a noble cause"
That's the sad and silent song of a soldier

Now a moment of silence for a broken man
While the president proudly crows, "We'll never bend"
And cheers the replacements marching off again
That's the sad and silent song of a soldier

And the flag draped coffins are a sailin' home
And the waves are watching as the engine drones
As the ship draws near hear the bugle moan
The sad and silent song of a soldier
Memory Lane” by Elliott Smith from the album From a Basement on a Hill (2004, 2:30).