Memorial Day, Gil Johnson

They Uphold and Protect Our Freedom.
They are Heroes.
Happy Memorial Day.
In which we memorialize the living and the dead alike.
There’s little distinction between our collective national commendation and extolling on one hand of Armed People abroad and our excoriation and indifference towards them at home on our other hand. Both treatments live in our use of that little word Hero. Our Armed People are Heroes more than we, because, in our stories, they have gone out into the world, and encountered death, and returned changed. That change real or imagined is tragic in a personal sense, because in this story where they are Heroes, they are no longer of us. We can extoll them but we can’t understand them.
As tragic, more tragic, differently tragic, is the source in our souls of this ongoing personal need to sacrifice our children to Heroism: we feel enslaved, perceive ourselves as inescapably burdened. The common cycle of economic debt is embraced by a people who have come to view themselves as indebted to the larger society for their very existence: if we are to be so much as fed, clothed, loved, we must EARN it, and this might be a positive value if the earning were possible. But nothing is asked of us, other than to competitively succeed over our brothers, and nothing is given to us but with the demand that we do what is asked of us.
We have no freedom to search, abroad or in ourselves, for the witches, the talking animals, for the Ogres of Death which would grind our bones to a heroic rebirth. We must Work.
Enter the Armed People, who accept a higher call. Who march as god’s own soldiers, armored with our Ideology, who march right out of our lives onto the pages of Grimm’s Be All You Can Be commercials. Once gone from our sight, they embody the freedom and action and triumph of will, the Puritan Strength of our ancestors courses through them, and through them we revolt in our spirits against the Oppressors and Evils of the world, and through them we are made Free.
And if they return? How should we meet their eyes?
If they have done all our hearts have demanded, their eyes will shame us with knowledge and strength we were too timid to embrace. They were never really like us at all, or they would not have left, or we would have gone too.
If they meet our eyes as equals, more horrible. Did they fail? Were they undeserving? Was there never really a chance, no higher thing for them to find or become? Did we risk them for nothing? Did we cower at home from nothing?
Better they should not return.
No wonder we most revere the dead.
The Ultimate Sacrifice.
Our Ultimate Sacrifice.
May the smoke of our offerings please them in Heaven.

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