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Honoring The Fallen: On Memorial Day And The Contradictions of Culture

May 27, 2013

That’s what Memorial Day is meant to be about, you know, honoring the military members who have given “the last full measure of their devotion,” and fallen, specifically in battle.  it’s not just summer’s version of Veteran’s Day.

Having said that, I don’t really mind the fact that people have begun to honor veterans in general on Memorial Day. as a veteran myself, I think it is a good idea to keep vets in mind whenever we can. So the gradual conflation of the two holidays don’t bother me and it’s not really what I’m going to talk about today.

What I’m going to talk about today is this; it’s everyone’s military. It’s everyone’s America.

Look at these pictures, considered some of the most powerful representations of the holiday.

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These are the images that have and will pepper our media this weekend.

They all have some things in common. Aside from the president, everyone pictured appears to be Caucasian. Most of them are male unless they are being hugged by the president or are watching the president hug someone. They are abled and the families we see all appear to contain or have contained one male and one female.

That is what the media presents as the truest representation of America. There are some notable absences.

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While we are honoring our fallen and our veterans we should probably not systematically ignore a large portion of those people. There are a lot of People of Color in the military because when you grow up poor, which a disproportionately large number of PoC do, signing up to possibly get shot at and die is a good path toward a steady pay check and the chance of a college education.  There are lots of non-Christians in America because, you know, they live in this country and they want to serve. There are lots of women in the military because they live in this country too and they want to serve, not to mention, when you start out at a disadvantage a group offering multiple benefits and ways for you to succeed in a godsend. Oh, and there are a lot of members of the LGBTQ community in the military too because we exist and stuff. As for the disabled; well duh. Catastrophic injuries are a natural consequence of military life, even when there is no ongoing conflict, things happen.

However, when we talk about he military, when we show the military in pictures and movies, unless someone is trying to make a specific  point about the full face of service, what we see are largely able bodies white males. Even worse today, when many of our lawmakers are going to be giving lip service to the military and spending a not small portion of their day talking about how great they are in one sentence, they are going to be taking digs at PoC, members of the LGBTQ community, the poor, and women.

And then they’ll claim to be the people supporting the military.

Nope. Sorry. Can’t have it both ways.

Either you support the whole military, which is the correct answer, or you stop calling yourself a patriot who supports said military because you’re a liar.

One or the other, not both.



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