The event is not without objectionable aspects: Each year a Christian male superstition expert is asked to lead the multitude in prayer. Many residents of Eden Prairie are not superstitious, but local christianists enjoy insinuating that American patriotism cannot exist without their ever-changing politically-favored magical beliefs. It's 2012 now--and high time we excise sectarianism from the ceremony.
the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religionAs people of honor, we have an obligation to speak honestly about our country's history. When we lie about the conduct of our armed forces, we disgrace the Stars and Stripes. There are two particular forms of dishonesty which invariably crop up, within the ceremony:
Does the United States involvement in Afghanistan make our country safer? In reading the local community newspapers and the state's paper of record, I have not yet come across any definitive argument requiring sensible people to accept such a claim. If we had never occupied Afghanistan, our national security would be no worse than it is at present.
As a fundamental point of American integrity, upright citizens must be free to openly discuss this controversial question. If you put the question to America's most highly-regarded experts in national security, you'll find a very large portion does not believe the intervention has advanced America's interests at all.
If you question the value of America's intervention in Afghanistan, there's an obvious, inescapable and painful corollary: American soldiers who have died fighting in Afghanistan represent a genuine tragedy, given that no important national interest has been advanced by their sacrifice. Speaking honestly about this reality is essential--so that future lives aren't wasted.
During the Memorial Day ceremony, then, let's watch out for speakers who thank wounded and dead American soldiers for 'defending our freedom' in Afghanistan and Iraq. Such an assertion embeds a dangerous and dubious claim that has by no means been objectively established. Instead, we should be asked to ponder our nation's tragic error, in the twin military fiascoes, perhaps even noting that our sainted former Rep. Jim Ramstad supported both--and has never emitted a scintilla of contrition.
Additionally, the ceremony invariably thanks Vietnam veterans, who make up a large contingent among attendees. Vietnam vet Bill Schiebler, 71, will speak this year; the Eden Prairie News introduces him here. The profile of Schiebler includes a number of questionable statements:
Schiebler claims 'his father was good friends with Charles Lindbergh.' Lindbergh was a crackpot anti-Semite and racist who led an American political movement exceedingly friendly to Adolf Hitler.
If Schiebler's father was a brownshirt nutcase, fine--though it is disquieting the son appears to continue to take such pride in the association.
It is difficult to convey to younger-generation Americans just how unpopular Martin Luther King was, among white Americans, prior to his assassination. (Decades later, Ronald Reagan felt entirely comfortable assailing him, recall.) If you've ever heard white Americans trashing Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, the mainstream white attitude toward King was one hundred times more bitter and dismissive. Newspaper-reading, church-attending white Americans, by and large, despised Martin Luther King.
And so it would seem unusual--particularly coming from a Lindbergh-admiring home--that Schiebler adored Martin Luther King:
“[MLK] came right up to me and hugged me.”Schiebler will keynote this year's event:
Schiebler then said, “I respect what you’re trying to do and I salute you for it.”
On Memorial Day, he said he wants to honor not only the men and women who have served, but also the families who have lost children, spouses and friends. In addition, he wants to honor those in public safety who put their lives on the line every day, as well as volunteers.America's intervention in Vietnam was bad for America's image and spirit--and an utter nightmare for the people of Indochina. About 95%--perhaps more--of the people killed as a result of the Vietnam War were natives of Vietnam and Cambodia.
“I would like to honor them,” he said.
The intervention did not advance any important American national interest--and thus there is a bitter irony in describing any American conduct there heroic. Military heroism, within a war that worsened America's national interest, rings empty--and should ring empty.
When Americans gather to commemorate the suffering brought on by the Vietnam War, we should apportion about 95% of our time to reflecting on the suffering of Asians--instead of 0%, as Schiebler feels to be most just.