Its Memorial Day and for many Americans this means vacation. Not for Antiwar.com of course, because the war doesn’t take a vacation and neither do we. But this sort of “take a trip up north” or “go to a barbecue” holiday comes with the built-in assumption that we reflect on glorious military campaigns of the past. During peacetime this is extremely easy to do, of course, there’s no reason to question this reflection too much, its just an excuse for an extra day off. In the midst of an unending, hugely unpopular war, things change, and couching the three-day weekend in jingoist terms is going to get people thinking about the war, and nobody in power wants that.
They can’t exactly cancel the holiday either, both because the calenders are already printed and because that’s going to get people thinking even more about the war. Instead, there seems to be a concerted effort to make very cynical displays of state “generosity” over the weekend, apparently thinking that this will salve over any doubts people have about the wartime regime. Since the state’s generosity is entirely a function of massive taxes and its also running a huge deficit fighting the war, so it better be real cynical and real cheap.
Here in Michigan, it takes the form of the Michigan Citizen Corps (MCC), whose rhetoric is couched entirely in “homeland security” and “anti-terrorism,” but whose real duties show up on these three-day weekends.
They go to rest stops along the Interstate highways, and give away government-subsidized cups of coffee to people to “honor” the troops. Fearing that this inherently ridiculous little program wasn’t sufficient any longer, the Federal Government even threw a $6,000+ grant at the group to buy some Snow Cone machines for the kids. Because we don’t want their little hearts and minds thinking too much either, especially since this war is going to last so long that they’ll eventually be voters.
On Saturday night, the US military launched an air strike in Paktia Province, killing a family of eight, including six children. One of the first responses I got about the story was from a self-righteous MCC person, who insisted that my reporting on the killings was not only disrespecting the holiday, but was disrespecting his “service” in handing out that subsidized coffee. He accused me of “missing the big picture” on the government by criticizing the deaths of those kids while ignoring the nice coffee-giving things they do.
Eight people are dead. Six children. How many cups of coffee do you need to look the other way? Inquiring minds want to know.