24 May 2020


A couple of all-too-timely news items related to the calendar have me irritated. As usual.

On the one hand, we have "establishment of religion." Please explain to me, advocates of the unitary executive (and everyone else, for that matter), how providing an explicit excuse for xtian religious gatherings in violation of generally applicable public health directives — or even for all religious gatherings — is not an establishment of religion? After all, for damned good reasons, my equivalents of religious institutions (bookstores and libraries) are closed at present. For that matter, why bookstores and libraries are less "essential" than liquor and car parts stores is a question that deserves considerable thought. Admittedly, not all religious leaders are following along with the ardent antiscientific/antipublic-right meme that public display of piety matters more than anything else (especially more than deeds, although about equal to greed).

And then there's a little interservice snobbery in advance of Memorial Day. After some scattered celebrations beginning around the end of May in 1864, a "Decoration Day" was proclaimed in 1868 for 30 May, when citizens were encouraged to decorate the graves of soldiers who had died defending their country during the "recent rebellion" — that is, Union soldiers. Naturally, this was quickly appropriated to include all soldiers who had died during the Second War of American Secession, better known as the American Civil War… including Confederate soldiers, who had died not in defending their country but in rebelling against it. (Admittedly, this is a little bit of "history is writ by the winners," but what part of history — especially American Exceptionalism — isn't? I'm willing to forgive those from former Confederate states for their ancestors' errors… so long as they repudiate the errors instead of retconning them, let alone justifying them.) Unlike everyone in Europe, the US managed to avoid widescale conflict for half a century thereafter — the so-called "Spanish-American War" of 1898 involved fewer soldiers than any named battle of the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1868.

Following the US initial involvement in the Second Thirty Years War in 1917, Decoration Day evolved into Memorial Day, for all US military casualties in defense of the nation (or, at least, in defense of declared/purported national interests; there was no threat to the nation discernable in Korea, or Vietnam, or the Arabian Gulf — at least the first time — let alone in Grenada or Panama or Beirut). There nonetheless remains the original whisper of "not for the opponent, not even for the opponent we forgave and have welcomed back." As far as the Department of the Army is concerned, though, that whisper is inaudible, given the number of Army installations named after ardent white supremecists and outright traitors (and neglecting, for the nonce, the symbology woven deeply into awards and statuary within that Department). Fortunately, my Department (the Air Force) has mostly avoided that problem; but even the Navy has done better. Even the Navy. (All of which is one of the reasons that, back in the 70s, I thought for about 0.35 seconds before rejecting all "opportunities" for Army ROTC, or an offered-under-the-table appointment to West Point. Because it was obvious even then.)

And meanwhile, the death toll from COVID–19 is already nearly enough for two long black walls. <SARCASM> Apparently, however, warfare on the working and lower classes won't merit a memorial for the fallen — not even when it's being waged largely by white supremacists expounding manifest destiny. </SARCASM>