Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Tis the season to be cranky...

It's another holiday season, and I have many things to be happy about: a loving wife of 35 years, a son back safely from Iraq, a daughter with my love of animals, and lots of good friends, a reasonably satisfying career. But there is something that's been bothering me the last few Decembers, and Tom Englehart of TomDispatch has posted an year-end essay that fleshes out my vague and somewhat diffuse unease.
My unease is rooted in our (and by "our" I mean the US's) apparent state of perpetual war. Every holiday season, especially around Christmas time, I am reminded of this by the seemingly countless stories about families here at home coping while a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, or son is "on duty" somewhere. The most poignant of these stories involves the family at home having the chance to communicate, perhaps over tv or videophone, or some other way, with their far-off military relative, while the country looks on. We forget for a moment that in almost every case, the far-off soldier, sailor, or Marine is not in fact "defending our freedoms," but instead providing a raison d'etre for the bloated, greedy, and insatiable Military Industrial Complex.

Or, we try to forget. My problem is that I am getting the impression these feel-good moments are designed to distract us from the enormity of our addiction to sending our people into harm's way in far-off places. I even wonder, at times, whether the wars themselves are intended to provide a reason for providing these moments. So what if thousands have to die so we can have a few special moments, moments that, I suspect, are manufactured for the purpose of damping down whatever dissent might be mustered against our addiction to war.

Too cynical? Maybe. Near the end of his essay Englehart offers this:
None of what’s happening in the world of American war may make much sense any more, not even in terms Washington’s foreign policy power brokers understand, but no matter.  They -- and so all of us -- are already in the grip of a nightmare, and nothing, it seems, can wake us.  So, for the last days of this year, as for the days that preceded them, as for all the days of next year, it’s full drone ahead and damn the torpedoes.  That’s our American world, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.   
So, I will enjoy the holidays, but I will also remain somewhat cranky, and I will continue to sign petitions and write letters urging an end to our national addiction. I hope you will join me.

1 comment:

  1. Ron:

    I can understand why you're cranky about this. I get the same feeling, too. But I guess I feel considerable sympathy for the military personnal, separated from their families as they are. These folks have to justify what they do by appeals to "defending our freedoms", but in reality, they get into the military for a variety of reasons, often perfectly "reasonable" ones like getting money for a further education by enlisting. It may, in these cases, be the only choice they really have if they want to get educated. And I think they understand the risks. And I'm saying this with all due respect to your son who, thankfully, got home safely from Iraq. I'm glad for you, and him.


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