By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher
Yes, the title of this editorial is correct. Really, I’d rather not write this column because I’m thinking of the quandary of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is about war and peace; honoring those who have died for this country; honoring those who are wounded or maimed for this country; honoring those who gave a part of their life serving this country; honoring those who fought for peace.
As Dr. Peter J. Stanlis points out in a new edition of his many years of conversations with the poet, Robert Frost spoke of “the two-endedness of things.” He addresses essential opposites in many principles and concepts best illustrated by metaphor. Sometimes that’s language at its best in understandable opposition.
Pointing out the foibles of the psycho-conditioning language of “Newspeak,” George Orwell warned us in his novel 1984 of a world where WAR IS PEACE. Hitler repeated the lie often enough, it became the truth to many.
My great-cousin Jack McNamara died in the WWII Battle of the Bulge. That did something terrible to my Great Aunt Eugenie that I’ll write about someday.
My Uncle Art Loveland fought in WWII or Korea, and I can’t quite remember which because I’ve tried to forget. He was a “wire stringer;” he went out in front of the lines and laid communication lines, working only at night. He came home to the family dairy farm on West State Street (around where Farm & Fleet is now) and sat under a tree without speaking even at meals, until one day when he just went back to work in the barn and only spoke of work. He drank quite a bit. He later lived at our house, ostensibly looking after my Ma (actually, it was the other way around). When I was home from college in D.C., Uncle Art and I sat on the front porch drinking Schlitz, and he just started talking, saying he had never spoken in detail about what he did during the war to anyone. I won’t go into the detail of graphic gruesomeness he let fly from his soul, besides to say he used a silenced 45-caliber Navy Colt pistol, but more often just a big knife modern soldiers call a “K-Bar.” It has a very sharp, serrated spine over its long blade. I still cry when I sit on those front porch steps on occasion that he pitched off backward as he climbed them, 12-pack under his arm, and split his head open on the sidewalk. I later had the sidewalk replaced.
I have sat with other friends on that same front porch who were essential in founding VietNow in Rockford and keep the MIA flags flying.
Those days came back during the Memorial Day weekend, when a friend of mine made a post on Facebook that she would help anyone pack who didn’t like her American flag symbol on her postings, as she thanked all our servicepeople for their sacrifice.
Reading her post, I was memory-keyed back to the Vietnam War, and the “Love It Or Leave It” slogan, bookended by American flags on bumper stickers. The slogan was also shouted at war protesters, Peaceniks. Those protesters shouted “Killers!” at friends of mine who were helicopter door gunners or medics when they came home.
This paper has published many articles about the Gulf War Syndrome that affected so many soldier’s immune systems in the first Iraq War, and this paper stands opposed to the illegal second Iraq War perpetrated by George W. Bush and his Halliburton Master Dick Cheney. They should be prosecuted for war crimes, including torture.
A massive disappointment, President Barack Obama continues that war, and the fool-hardiness in Afghanistan, trying to wind them both down much too slowly. After decades on the job, the great White House Correspondent Helen Thomas asked Obama in a recent press conference something to the effect of: “How long are we going to continue to be killed and kill in Afghanistan? And don’t give me some silly answer.”
I love that woman, just like I love Tom Bauschke, our columnist, who wrote about hiking the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails, biking across America, and canoeing the Mississippi. Then, much to my disagreement, he enlisted as a medic to serve in Afghanistan. I didn’t even want to talk to him because I was afraid to be too close if he was killed. We published his articles about his service there. I didn’t like them, but I print many things I don’t like. He lived; thank God! Then, he went and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to benefit the wars’ wounded. I wonder if the ghost of Ernest Hemingway lives there? We’ll have a beer one of these days, and I hope we’ll always come down my front porch steps alive.
Yes, I print things I don’t like. That’s my job to provide Freedom of the Press to what I may not care for, sometimes provided by people who can hurt me and you. Many people think they’re always right, their cause is always justified, no matter who falls or where they fall. Never mind how long it takes them to fall. I really don’t think America is standing for the principles we used to be loved for all around the world, and for what we cherished here at home in our hearts, minds and souls.
I’d rather not wrestle with the memories of the dead and broken. I don’t like seeing the broken, even though I love them. I’m not alone in that sentiment, either. Memorial Day is painful for me. You won’t see me at the parade. I don’t join in. I do see “the two-endedness of things.” I do say, “Thanks so much,” and “live and let live.”
Look up how many have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Internet yourself. I really don’t feel like it this year, especially after I watched The Hurt Locker.
Happy Memorial Day. Hope you enjoyed the time off.
From the June 2-8, 2010 issue