Monday, May 27, 2013
Memorial Day on the tightrope
So, yeah. Memorial Day. Every year it rolls around, I get all squirmy because I know I'm going to post something and I know it's not going to be all patriotic. I know there's going to be someone or many someones who object and there are all those flags on Facebook and beautiful tributes to loved ones who've fought and died in wars for my liberty and freedom. Then I'll think about Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est and pro patria mori (how sweet and honorable it is to die for one's country) and how he called it The Old Lie, and incurable sores on innocent tongues. I'll read that poem and look at his pale, wan face and think about the trenches of World War I and the men who lived in them for months on end, men who knew nothing of the drones that would replace them nearly a century later, strange silver shapes looking for x's below, bombs dropping and evil men skittering to caves, little children flattened in the name of liberty, again, and freedom. I'll wonder why peace and nonviolent principles aren't celebrated in nearly the same way and why those who wish it so are visited with scorn and condescension -- I'm glad you take for granted the liberties and freedoms awarded you, Elizabeth. I'll continue to protect you, a relative once said, witheringly -- and I'll realize that I, too, have been scornful of beautiful flags blowing in American breezes, have condescended to those who believe that it's only through killing that liberty is won.
I think that today I will make my own memorial day. I will sit in this paradox of honoring those who kill and those who are killed. I will stand and hold both, like every day I live, the tightrope under my feet, my arms outstretched, tip here, tip there, creep and then skitter along, the abyss -- or freedom -- below.