One of my first serious songs was titled "Memorial Day", written way back in 1979 after the end of the Vietnam War. My approach to the song was somewhat angry: why are we honoring people who died such violent deaths? Should we not be promoting peace and an end to all wars? I was in my ideological period, which ended when I finished graduate school at BC and started the somber task of working in child welfare. Now it is 2015 and the anger at soldiers and the military that was palpable in the 1970's has been reframed into honoring soldiers who are performing the sometimes thankless task of defending the security of the United States while more properly questioning why the wars themselves are being waged. This is the one true legacy of Vietnam.
Although one can point to an entity such as ISIS and pretty clearly identify evil that should not go unchallenged, it does seem to me that not enough attention is given to the need to promote peace and reconciliation. War is never a good thing, it is destruction in the service of maintaining or acquiring power over others. It must always be a last resort and if there is never again a world war, the planet is all the better for it. Every time war breaks out, it is because peacemaking, tolerance, diplomacy and negotiating cooperation has failed. It is a failure of the human condition for war to exist and never should be viewed as any kind of necessary endeavor.
In this light, Memorial Day is honoring political failure and young men and women who have died because nations and people with opposing interests could not find a way to get along. In 2015, wouldn't it be nice to hear someone say there needs to be more peace on earth (and not wait until the Christmas season when the year is practically over). Just my thoughts on this. 40 years ago, I was more than a little disrespectful with the song but my heart was in the right place and I hope it stays there waving a banner for peace and tranquility for as long as I am around.
Walking down the street in the cool of the morning, quiet in the air
30th of May, 1979
Looking at the signs that say "no parking", looking at the people there
A parade was passing them by
Gathered in the plaza were the poor, the weak and the old
Standing on the corners, the women and children were told:
" There was a time when this country was strong,
Remember the dead, remember the dead on Memorial Day."
Over at the microphone, a fat man with medals shuffled back and forth
30th of May, 1979
And the blue shirted cops rode their motorcycles up and down the court
They matched that clear, blue sky
Well, the drummers started drummoing and the marchers proceeded in force
The high school band followed the man on the horse.
I heard the grand marshal proclaim to the crowd:
" Remember the dead, remember the dead on Memorial Day."
Well, your dead and my dead ought to get together once or twice a week
30th of May, 1979
They can talk about their sorrows, better tomorrows
We'll tell them our fears
And it's all gonna work out fine.
They can tell us about their struggles in Berlin, Korea and Guam
I guess we'll have to tell them the part about Vietnam
The scars on the living may never be healed
Remember the dead, remember the dead on Memorial Day
The scars on the living will only slowly be healed
Remember the dead
You're better off remembering the dead on Memorial Day.
Remember the dead on Memorial Day.
-- Michael Gutierrez-May, May 1979
Maybe we could remember the Grateful Dead instead?