July 4 isn’t for chest-thumping

I celebrated the Fourth by going to a baseball game, which was followed by fireworks. Seemed like a good, all-American evening, and it included a tribute to veterans, which I found quite moving.

During the seventh inning, the Rev. Scott Rogers to0k to the field to talk about the vets who didn’t come back. He named the people from our area who have died on foreign soil, and introduced a flag-folding ceremony.

I always get emotional at flag-folding ceremonies because I’ve seen far too many of them as a newspaper reporter covering the funerals of fallen soldiers. Every time I see the ceremony, I’m reminded of the mother who insisted her son’s casket remain open, even though his face was replaced by a mask because it had been blown away. She kept reaching into the casket to touch his gloved hand. I’m reminded of the devastated young wife trying to comfort her weeping child who just wants his Daddy. I’m reminded of families and friends whose lives will never again be whole because of their loss. I’m reminded of the lost potential of this life cut short on a battlefield halfway around the world.

I know first-hand what it is to lose a child, but I can’t comprehend losing one in a war. I at least got to say goodbye to my son.

As the flag was being folded, a woman near me started chanting “USA!” She stopped pretty quilckly. I’m hoping it was because someone gave her the reality slap she deserved.

This ceremony was to honor the dead, not to chest-thump as though the whole thing was a sports event. Patriotism is about a lot more than chanting simplistic slogans. It’s not about, “America, right or wrong,” nor is it about allowing our freedoms to be swallowed up by a war on terrorism that does little more than kill innocent people and enrich corporations.

Part of our problem in the world is that we’re arrogant; we’re convinced we’re better than anyone else, and we impose our will whether our way is appropriate or not. Those in power — the very wealthy and huge corporations — love war, and their sons and daughters are rarely the ones who are maimed or killed in these conflicts.

The people who serve in our military believe they are doing what’s right for their country. They are honorable and brave, and they deserve our respect, although many come home wounded and emotionally damaged and we don’t give them what they need. They become homeless, and often become addicted to drugs and or alcohol in an attempt to numb the pain. We slash veterans’ programs and figure they should just buck up and get on with their lives after repeated deployments. But when we see someone in uniform, we thank them for their service as though that’s all we need to do.

This nebulous thing they’re fighting for, “freedom,” isn’t about competition and us being Number One. When we say freedom isn’t free, it shouldn’t be about spending innocent lives on the battlefield, but about participating in Democracy. We need to learn about the issues, understand and see through the crap that’s being thrown at us by the media and our politicians, and take our country back.

Democracy is participatory. If we the people are too lazy to vote intelligently, our country loses its greatness. We are at the threshhold of disaster now. It’s time to stop chanting stupid slogans and work to really understand the issues. That’s the price of freedom, and if we don’t pay that price, we will lose our freedoms.

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