Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day (Actual)

Today is Tuesday, 30 May 2006.

“Viva la Muerte!” “Long live Death!”

The motto of a Spanish army division which implemented the Fascist coup of 1936. Irony was not their strong suit.

Whatever individuals may mean by their observances of Memorial Day, the truth is, that as a component of nationalist pseudo-religion, Memorial Day is a celebration of death, of dying “in the service of one’s country,” the essence of which is “Befehl ist Befehl,” “orders are orders,” “Mine is not to question why, Mine is but to do and die,” … because armies are dictatorships, and the soldier is meant to be the dumb extension of a dumb weapon, killing where it is pointed.

Death is not our friend. Even if one believes that death is the way station to eternal life, one may not lust after death, for that devalues and degrades life, which is supposed to be the gift of a divine creator. (Note that those, such as W. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, who are so keen on the sacrificial deaths of others, always run like hell from any situations in which they personally might suffer demise.)

It is in this sense of reality I meant yesterday’s quote: "Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." (attributed to George S. Patton; June 1944)

There is no glory in dying, in war or elsewhere, just as there is no glory in killing. There is only agony and loss.

Sufficiently socialized, however, ‘though one ought truthfully to say “anti-socialized,” it is possible, as Napoleon observed, to lead people to their deaths in return for the word “glory” and a posthumous scrap of ribbon.

Contrast Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian who took part in the attempts to kill Hitler. He believed that killing, of anyone, was a crime and a sin. He took part in the plots against Hitler because he believed his class had failed in its duties to its society, and made Hitler’s ascent possible, and that the only way to open a path forward in history was to remove Hitler once and for all.

BUT: Bonhoeffer did not succumb to the false reasoning, that the killing is necessary, therefore it is good. The killing was necessary, but it was still a crime and a sin, and he gave himself up to the consequences, and was hanged after the plot of 1944 failed. He also believed he would have to answer to his deity for his deed, and that no false claim of goodness could be advanced.

Contrast this with nationalism, which elevates killing, dying, and death to the summit of human values.

As for me and my house, we shall not honor death, but mourn all whom death devours.


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