Memorial Day is a double-gut wrencher for my family and me. Our son, brother (posthumous Uncle) and friend, Casey (who was killed in the illegal and disastrous war on Iraq), was born 33 years ago about one hour and one minute past Memorial Day on May 29th.
As I have written and said many times before, for most people Memorial weekend is a weekend of parades, cookouts and sleeping in. Our family used to have a big party for Casey’s birthday every year on Memorial weekend—never even suspecting that it would turn out to be such a sad weekend because for those of us who have had loved ones murdered by the Empire, it’s vastly different. No matter how many flags “patriots” display this weekend they can never know the pain.
After Casey’s funeral and the ceremony at the local cemetery, the limousines brought our family back to the church hall where several restaurants and many community members had set a lavish spread and for the first time since my life was shattered, I was starving. However, even though I was on the verge of collapse, I was forced to go into a room with some local veterans to receive my Gold Star from an older woman who had her only two sons killed in Vietnam. I was in shock and received this demented medal as fast as I could, without much reflection, so I could eat sit down and eat.
Not long after that, I received an application to join the Gold Star Mothers of America ®. For some reason, I never returned the application and later, as my understanding of why my son was killed grew, my relief that I never joined the mostly pro-war organization grew and I was involved in founding an opposite organization, Gold Star Families for Peace, at the end of 2004.
In fact, I am a question in the FAQ’s of the Gold Star Mothers of America group:
Is Cindy Sheehan part of your group?
Cindy Sheehan is currently in the news. She and her organization have no connection whatever with American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. We are a 501 C(3) organization and, as such, do not engage in political activities. We do support our troops. After all, they are our children.
Of course, this answer assumes that people who work for peace don’t support the troops. How ironic this meme is when even CiaNN is noticing that 18 veterans commit suicide each and every day—over 6500 per year—more per year than have been killed by the “enemy” in over ten years of the US’s War of Terror. Does “supporting the troops” mean sending them to wars based on lies for profit, then discarding them when they return? Apparently to many reactionaries, this is the case.
This morning, a friend sent me an article about a documentary being made about the organization Gold Star Mothers of America ®, and the subject line was: You (meaning me) won’t be in it. Reading the article, I found that one of the goals of the filmmakers is to “raise awareness about what it means to be a Gold Star Mother and open Americans’ eyes — especially young people — to the sacrifice that has kept them free.”
So, in actuality, the goal of the movie is to promote the Warfare State propaganda that the US military is used to keep us “free” here in the states. I really wish that I could delude myself into believing that I am freer because my son died, but even if I believed that I don’t even know what it means. Even if this ephemeral freedom existed, what kind of “freedom” has to be purchased by another’s death? Patriotic mumbo jumbo jargon is no replacement for a son.
The Gold Star mother who gave me my star over eight years ago, now, has deluded herself for five decades that her sons died in Vietnam for her freedom, but how much energy does that take every day to avoid the truth? It must be nearly as exhausting as confronting the truth, but she doesn’t have to spend any time in jail or camping out in such places as Crawford, Texas—hiding ones head in the sand can be accomplished from the comfort of your own home.
I, too, want the eyes of young people to be opened, but to the fact that they kill and die for the crimes and lies of the ruling class and their sacrifices cause pain to themselves and so many others for the profit of a few. I want their eyes to be opened before they enlist to the horrors of war and the images of babies being born with deformities and illnesses because of depleted uranium and other toxins the US military spreads around the world with the cancer of imperialism.
I want young people to envision a future of peace and justice that isn’t wrought off of the deaths of millions of innocent people and the destruction of entire countries.
Besides, I can personally vouch for the truth that since my son died, my civil liberties and human rights have been eroded to the point of ridiculousness.
Peaceful protests are relegated to miles away from the people or events that are being opposed—I am sexually and emotionally molested every time I fly—I have been arrested many times for exercising my “freedom” to peaceably assemble or my “freedom” to speech—I have been followed and spied upon—I am being persecuted by the same US Attorney’s office that protects the Bush regime—and President Obama has given himself the right to imprison me (and you) without due process, or even murder me (and you) if he deems it necessary. Exactly what “freedoms” did my son sacrifice his young and valuable life for? We have freedom here in the US all right—the freedom to take our establishment medals and shut the f@*k up if you don’t support the Warfare State. Here in the US of A, we also can be “free” to be as DUMB as we want—just keeping watching that TV box.
People who support and defend the US Warfare State claim to know that my son is “rolling in his grave” because of my activism, but I knew him better than anyone on this planet and I was relieved and validated when I found out that Casey refused and then was forced to go on the mission that ended up killing him. I am so proud of him and the vets who throw their “Man Scout Badges” back at the Warfare State.
As the prophet, Jim Morrison, implied, we are afraid of true freedom and the responsibility that it brings. It’s so much easier to give our power away to the Warfare State and watch our world be eviscerated for its voracious appetite.
However, the best way to honor Casey and the millions who have died, or been slaughtered by the US Warfare State, is to reject the propaganda and work for true and lasting peace and the overthrow of that Warfare State by any non-violent means necessary. Only then will we be truly free.