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holiday

so last night I went to bed at 7:30pm because I was very very sleepy and it just seemed like the thing to do. it was either that or try to stay awake at my computer and I could just tell that if I kept sitting here I was going to wake up with keyboard prints in my forehead sometime in the middle of the night.

so I just went to bed. the cats joined me and we were asleep before any of us could even think about whether we would actually fall asleep. (no I don't really know when the cats fell asleep but the two times I woke up during the night they were both in the same spot under my arm. my arm gets a little sore from being stretched out where two cats can share it all night.)

I keep forgetting it is memorial day weekend which is something that miss morissette could have said was ironic but did not, instead mistaking rain on a wedding day for irony, which it is not, as we all know by now. this is an old conversation.

as I said in a comment to someone else's post about memorial day, I think that this memorial day we americans should pause, and I mean really pause, and think about all the lives that have been lost in Iraq. using Wikipedia and checking its sources, it seems that the minimum number of total lives lost, both American and Iraqi military and civilian, is around 77,500.

that's the minimum.

some agencies are reporting as many as 655,000 Iraqi civilians dead due to war and conditions of war, such as lack of medical care and equipment, contaminated water and food supplies, etc.

at a conference at Berkeley a couple of years ago, on mourning and violence, Judith asked the question of what constitutes a memorable life. naturally in the US the most memorable lives have been designated as those US soldiers killed, a count that stands at 3444 now according to a couple of sites. googling "casualties iraq" reveals a number of sources with varying agendas and so grains of salt of various sizes might be recommended, but I think that it is clear that the american death count pales in comparison to the possible hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths that would not have occured had the war not been undertaken.

the very idea that modern warfare can be "surgical" and "clean" is the mythology by which many were led to believe that we would be "liberating" the Iraqis instead of killing them, but many of us knew then that surgical war is impossible. I don't know if it will ever be possible, but as an ideal it leads war hawks on to ever rising attitudes of righteousness and innocence as they imagine a future war in which only "the bad guys" would die. unfortunately the history of war does nothing to lead to a conclusion that such a war could be possible, and, even if possible, actually undertaken. war is always, always a platform for atrocities that exceed stated military goals, and why any american ever believes that those who particiate in "this war" will somehow not fall into that abyss only reveals the miserable state of historical education in the US.

of course who the bad guys are is always debateable, which is why I think that on memorial day we should think of all the Iraqi dead, not just the civilians. we don't know the rationales of most who join the insurgency, although we cast them all as terrorists deserving the death penalty, and thus we do not count them among the dead that can be mourned. their families think differently, no doubt, and in any case had we not started the war there would be no insurgency to join and to die for. it is to be expected that if you occupy a country against its national will that a resistance force will arise, and the reasons for joining it will vary according to individual. but no one wants to talk about that--they simply "hate our freedom." considering what "freedom" has brought to their country, who could blame them if that were really the case? but in all likelihood, very few hate the US because its citizens are free to express their ideas. no plausible reasoning exists for such a hate. it is simply assigned as such, without being defined or explained.

so this memorial day, I think that the only ethical action we could undertake would be to grieve every death in Iraq--and then move on to grieve other deaths in other places, deaths that result from hatred, prejudice and ignorance. there are more than enough to keep us occupied for a day. we could memorialize those who are killed in the US for being different; we could memorialize those who kill themselves because they perceive themselves as unworthy of life according to some mythological moral code. we could memorialize victims of domestic violence and child abuse, of municipal excesses in the war on (some) drugs, of homelessness and hunger.

really, I can't think of a good reason to have a picnic on memorial day. I think it would be more appropriate to turn the lights out and have a good cry. and then go and feed someone who can't afford groceries. seemingly, the administration is impervious to the will of the people to stop the war in Iraq, but at the very least we could stop, for one day, the workings of the same war machine that carries on here and takes its casualties from within our own borders.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
daisydumont
May. 26th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
a good cry to observe memorial day sounds appropriate to me, too.
eriktrips
May. 27th, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC)
that, and some sort of concrete, below-the-national-radar action. I don't know what I will do--maybe take the lazy way out and send some money to an activist group online--something that I know will be helpful, and that I can spare.

the raging against the neocons in the blogosphere and the regular media doesn't shine a single light into the administration's tunnel vision. the only thing we can hope for at this point is a better crew in 2008. but honestly, I've lost all faith in my fellow citizens. not all of them, of course, but I am afraid that the republicans have something up their sleeve that will keep them in office by successfully pulling the wool over the eyes of a populace eager to be deceived in order to feel self-righteous.

if I don't hope for any more than that, I guess I can't be disappointed. there's one bright side. :/
banshee1067
May. 26th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
I can't say I feel as much grief as head-shaking disgust and pessimism at our lovely Iraq campaign. Disgust at our politicians, but also at the American people for stupidly believing such bald-faced lies.

In the aftermath of 9/11, at least in L.A., the second reaction after a good cry was to shop, to buy plastic flags to put on cars or FDNY merchandise or various photo albums labeled "A Tribute To Heroes". It was all so childish, the belief that buying a baseball cap and a flag to wave was somehow "supporting" the troops rather than a bunch of savvy merchants.

It'll keep happening. People can get all moony about peace, but let's face it...a lot of America derives satisfaction from seeing us "kick some ass". After all, Rambo did it in the movies, right? Kick their ass and if it makes them angry at us, well, they're WRONG, because they deserved to get their asses kicked. A stupid rationale, though simple. My cousin, who spent time in Afghanistan, told me that his view towards Iraq was: "Let's carpet bomb those sand niggers back to the Stone Age."

Of course, I don't really support the war because I "hate freedom". Jesus...does anyone even listen to what our politicians say? Does anyone "hate freedom"?
eriktrips
May. 27th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)
oh I feel the same way about the way in which the majority will allow themselves to be deceived into thinking they are being good patriots. I don't even have any patience with the view that one must be a patriot, much less that one can only be one if one is a conservative. it's all a bunch of mindless herd-driving bullshit that our educational system has failed to teach anyone to handle in any manner resembling critical thinking.

on the other hand I think that our public educational system has been designed to raise sheep from its very beginnings. read dewey on public education for a real enlightening moment.

I guess at this point I have moved from anger to grief precisely because I feel powerless, like my anger is not going to be heard and can't effect any change except at the local level, and I am beginning to think that intelligence in an animal so loyal to its family and clan groups was a tragic mistake on the part of natural selection. thing is, it can be overcome--europe presents an imperfect example--but it takes a tremendous amount of self awareness and critical thinking skills, which are things completely devalued in American society.

but yes I do share your disgust. I just don't know if it is a productive state to remain in. grief might not be either. action at the local level and whatever sort of contribution one can make at higher levels are the only concrete things that I can see as having any hope of even partial success. but I have no faith in my fellow citizens--at least not most of them, and in our 51%-takes-all-the-winnings system, a simple majority can unfortunately completely ruin the lives of millions of people worldwide.
banshee1067
May. 27th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
You and I need to hang out sometime. And me about three hours south of you, I believe.

What is the name of the Dewey book? I would like to read it.

your last paragraph regarding the futility is exactly why I'm apolitical. I just don't think that others will follow. It's a lot easier to take the Rambo mentality. That's also why I often say what I do in my own journals regarding compassion...if most people aren't going to be that way, then you're making yourself more vulnerable by doing it yourself
eriktrips
May. 27th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
let me know next time you are anywhere near SF; we could certainly meet for a beer or coffee or whatever your chosen poison is. if I find myself heading your way I'll let you know.

I'd have to look up the precise Dewey references--I don't remember where I read them--but he wrote many books on educational philosophy. any one of them might prove interesting. it's not all bad, but he does say some disturbing things about shaping the population into model laborers as one of the broad goals of public education. according to the same unremembered source, the ideas behind the public education debate, when it was going on, mostly were of the sort of creating a docile mass of labor rather than an educated, independently-thinking citizenry.

now I'm going to have to search the internet until I find where I was reading all this.

in any case, I think it is entirely possible to be compassionate without being a doormat. you can have mercy on people without giving them a shot at you. it's often stated that abuse survivors have a hard time figuring out where to place their personal boundaries such that they are neither letting in any thug who wants to beat them nor constantly harshing on other people (or themselves). there's a medium that can be sustained, I think.
plangge
May. 27th, 2007 12:22 am (UTC)
Worthy listening while contemplating: This American Life, Episode 320: What's In A Number? (2006 Edition)

Recently, the British medical journal The Lancet published an study which updated their estimate of the number of Iraqis who've died since the U.S. invasion. With that in mind, we revisit a show we did in 2005 about the earlier study published in Lancet estimating the number of Iraqi deaths. That study was mostly ignored in the U.S. Alex Blumberg revisits the original study and looks at the new one.

Prologue.

Host Ira Glass talks to ordinary Iraqis about life in their country since the U.S. invasion. Every one of them has friends and relatives — civilians — who've been killed in the violence there. (5 minutes)

Act One. Truth, Damn Truth and Statistics.

Two years ago, a John Hopkins University study published in The Lancet estimated the number of civilian casualties in Iraq. It came up with a number — 100,000 dead — that was higher than any other estimate at the time and was mostly ignored. Producer Alex Blumberg tells the remarkable story of what it took to find that number, why we should find it credible and why almost no one believed it. (36 minutes).

Act Two. Not Just a Number.

Captain Ryan Gist was given a particularly tough assignment in Iraq: to build relationships with a town where U.S. bombs had killed twelve innocent people. But first he has to apologize to the families of those who were killed. We hear the apology, captured on tape by a journalist in Iraq, and talk to Captain Gist about his work there after this incident. (8 minutes)

Act Three. The War This Time.

The Lancet's new study of deaths in Iraq, by the same research team that did the earlier study, yielded an astounding number — 650,000 civilian deaths. Producer Alex Blumberg talks to Ira about the debate over this new study. (6 minutes)
eriktrips
May. 27th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
I will definitely listen to that this morning. while I think of where I could submit a version of the above rant where it might be read by more than my lj friends.

not that I have a great hope of making a difference.
witchewoman
May. 27th, 2007 12:54 am (UTC)
Sadly, most will be too busy BBQ'in' and drinkin' to even reflect upon anything more serious than keeping the potato salad chilled and the burgers sizzlin'.

I wouldn't mind seeing this entire article submitted to Slate.com or another Editorials site.
eriktrips
May. 27th, 2007 03:10 pm (UTC)
I think I might edit a version of it and do just that. submit, that is. not eat potato salad.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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