Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Dialogue

So why do I always have these reactions to all these things that people post on memorial day every year?

What specifically are you reacting to, Benjamin?

Well, for instance, people keep posting this poster on facebook that has a picture of a military graveyard, with a young lady lying face down in front of one of the graves, and the caption says something like "In case you thought it was national barbecue day".  I feel grumpy in response to that?

Why do you feel grumpy, Benjamin?

Well, I feel like we're just perpetuating this lie, that joining the military is a great idea, honorable, blah blah blah, and part of the lie is that if you join the military, and you die, that's honorable and powerful and wonderful. And also this lie that somehow our side is right and the other side is wrong, that our pursuit of so called "justice" is good and honorable, but the others' pursuit of their so called "justice" is total bullshit.  It comes out in the whole nuclear weapons non-proliferation thing.  Like OMFSM it's so bad for "them" to have or try to get nuclear weapons, but it's really good and excellent for "us" to have nuclear weapons, even though we are the only ones who ever deployed them, and that was against civilian populations. etc. etc. etc.

So given that you believe that this poster is somehow perpetuating this belief that you see as a lie, why are you grumpy about that, Benjamin?

I think I feel really angry because OMFSM now I'm gonna cry.  I feel angry and sad that people told this lie so much that it ended up meaning that my dad bought into that, at least to the extent that he didn't really believe he had any other option when he was drafted into the military in the mid-60's, and the repercussions of that are so horrible for him. I mean he's had such huge amounts of pain in his body, almost overwhelming pain, because of his exposure to Agent Orange and lots of other stuff, not to mention basically untreated post traumatic stress disorder for decades and thus also depression and I could go on.

Given that your dad has experienced these things that you are describing, why do you feel sad and angry in response?

Well, it's this.  I see that the whole culture carries on about it being honorable, etc. etc., and the end result is that young people, people who are young now like my dad was back then, choose to join the military, and no one tells them the truth, about PTSD, and what blood and death and destruction and war are really like up close and personal.  I'm thinking of my young second cousin who I believe recently joined the military, for instance.  This poster is telling him this lie, and there are real consequences for him in the future.

So Benjamin why do you believe that you are better suited to make decisions for your 2nd cousin that he is?  or do you believe that?

No. Of course I don't believe that. I'm talking about the reality of systems.  Haven't your read Zimbardo?  Can't be a sweet cucumber in a vinegar barrel.  Or at least ... most people can't.

Why do you believe that?

Well, I don't believe that.  it's more like ... I believe most people CAN, but it's fairly clear that most people DON'T.  But ... if we can drain the vinegar and maybe put in some oil, then the cucumbers will be more likely to stay fresh.

Okay.  So given that most people DON'T stay sweet pickles in a vinegar barrel, and to whatever extent you're dad got pickled, and maybe your 2nd cousin will get pickled, why are you angry and sad in response to posters which call for honoring pickled people?

You ask hard questions.  I think sometimes I'm the only one, or one of the very very few, who is saying "HEY, WHAT THE FUCK?  WE NEED TO DRAIN THIS DAMNED VINEGAR OUT OF THE FUCKING BARREL, BEFORE WE PICKLE ANY MORE SWEET CUCUMBERS!".  I think I'm angry that other people seem to just be kind of passively accepting that people get pickled, and pretending to remember.  They're not REALLY remembering. They're not memorializing what actually happened.  They're memorializing some sugar coated fantasy about what happened, in order to prevent facing the painful reality of what happened. And fair enough.  But in doing that, they're consenting to have it happen again and again and again and again.  Like the poster is missing a level.  Yes, fair enough, let's not turn memorial day into BBQ weekend and forget about people dying in war.  But there's another level of forgetting. Let's not turn memorial day into some glorified bullshit remembrance of glory or honor.  Let's allow ourselves to actually see and understand what war is really like, and remember that.  The thing is, the whole apparatus is designed to make sure that doesn't happen, so that those benefitting under the current system can continue to do so.

(Fuck this.  I need a real dialogue partner.  I'm totally stuck for a question.  sigh. Why is it so much easier to listen to someone else well than to listen to oneself well?  I lose track of the themes and such, for which I would normally be listening out, while I'm talking.  Hmmmmmm.  Okay.  pretend the dialogue started right now.  here goes.)

So Benjamin, how come you're angry about this situation you described?

'Cause I have judgements about the stuff that's happened to my dad. And I don't want that stuff to happen to my cousin.

What specifically is your judgement about what's happened to your dad?

I think it sucks that he is suffering so much as a result of things about which he didn't really have a choice.

I know this might sound like a strange question, Benjamin--but I ask it sincerely.  Why do you think it sucks that your dad is suffering?

'Cause I want him to not be suffering.

Okay--I totally hear you on that.  But I want to suggest that these are completely different things--not wanting your dad to suffer, and judging his suffering as sucky.  So given that you want him not to suffer, why do you judge his suffering as bad?

Teehee.  okay.  what if I judge his suffering as perfect?  That feels slightly relaxing.  Now I'm afraid that other people will judge me for judging my dad's suffering as perfect--that they'll think I'm a cruel horrible son for thinking that.

Whom are you afraid will judge you for that, Benjamin?

Couple people come to mind.  My Aunt Carol, and my Aunt Sarah, among others. Okay, I'm going to take over the questions for a minute =).  The question is:  .... Actually, when I think about specific people, as I contemplate them one by one, I don't really believe any of them will judge me for deciding to believe my dad's suffering is perfect.  It's more some vague aggregate who will do that.  Okay, actually no one about whose opinion I really care will judge me for that.

So how is this decision to believe your dad's suffering is perfect related to your reactions against people posting this poster about memorial day on facebook?

Wow.  So is my dad's suffering is perfect, then maybe all suffering by everyone involved in any way on any side of any war past or future is perfect.  that sounds like somewhat inflated optimism right there.  Okay, that reminds me of something that always makes me giggle.  There is no scenario better than the one that will happen.  So ... if that's the case, then it is impossible for all these people posting all this subtly pro violence memorial day stuff to lead to a scenario that's less than optimal.  Which means that I can go for what I want in terms of an optimal scenario without having to feel angry or sad since an optimal scenario is inevitable.  That feels kind of delicious.

Do you feel finished with that?

Yeah, I think I do =).  thanks! =)


  1. I have seen the photo that you refer to. I do not feel that it is saying Please join the military so that you will crush the girl that you love and loves you so much and could have been happy with except you got shot in the stomach and bled to death, and now she misses you so much, and does not know how to go on without you.
    It is true that there are many companies whose directors make millions of dollars by building things that make America safe, except not safe from global warming, or economic collapse, or running out of oil, or the anger of all the innocent people's families that we killed, or their children, not to mention the poisoning of the ground with radioactivity or dioxin, and the birth defects, plus we seem to love dictators.
    The world is becoming happier, but by mistake we think that the good old days were happy times when we killed the indians and enslaved the blacks and dynamited the chinese and hated the irish and polish than now when we only hate the muslims and the atheistic communists.
    We have a lot to feel sad about, and if we are happy, it only means that we probably don't care that much about the suffering of all the people we are crushing by our inhuman systems.
    Lets not even talk about chickens.
    I am sorry your that our glorious presidents manage to fuck your father.

  2. The subtitle for the movie Dr Strangelove was "How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Bomb."
    It's nice to stop worrying, but I worry that that is going too far.