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Memorial Day in recent years has been a more than usually bittersweet honoring of those who served their country at the cost of their lives in wartime.
In nearly every Pagan tradition the warrior is honored, as I think is fitting. In the world as it is and has been human predators have always threatened peaceful people, and warriors have been required to risk all in defense of their loved one and their homes and values. And sometimes they pay all.
I never served. I was of the 60s generation, and deeply opposed the Vietnam War. But opposed to the war as I was, I never attacked those who fought under our flag except for one editorial I wrote denouncing our bombing of the city of Hanoi. As I would today (but with less self-righteousness). But denounce the basic American soldier? No. Never. One of the greatest abominations of the hypocritical cowards and false “patriots” of the political center and the right was their failure to honor those who served and returned.
They and also those who did not return were men and women, often drafted back then and volunteers today, who chose to serve their country. And that means you and me as well. As with all human choices the mix of motives varied from completely idealistic to taking a calculated risk for the GI Bill to a search for adventure to leaving behind the pain of a failed relationship, and all the other varied reasons we do what we do. But in virtually every case they took on the role of protector as they understood it.
We need to honor that. Today few serve, and fewer still who have economic opportunities before them. It is easy for too many Americans to treat our wars as spectator sports where we root for our team. Memorial Day is an opportunity to take in a larger context, and to consider the hopes and dreams of those who went out never to return. The fact is that for many, likely most, the motive of service ranked high in their reasons. They were warriors.
But there is another dimension to Memorial Day that speaks more loudly every year. With the best of motives in serving their country these men and women have served American political and corporate predators waxing wealthy by attacking and killing others. Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, slaughtered Afghanis, and others, died at the hands of men and women who volunteered to serve our country, not to be predators but to protect. But to volunteer meant putting themselves under orders of their legal superiors even if those in power were also their moral inferiors. Our warriors’ motives and the prices they paid, some of them the highest prices, have been betrayed by those moral criminals within both parties who stand today and preen as they pretend to honor Memorial Day. If they truly did they would not have brave American men and women fighting endless wars for vague goals all across the world.
To be a warrior is to act with high honor deserving of recognition and praise. To die in battle is to deserve eternal recognition by those who benefit. Maybe someday our warriors will have leaders equally worthy of respect.
Until that Magickal time this wonderful version of The ladies go dancing at Whitsuntide captures much of the pain and beauty nobility and tragedy of this day.