I’ve =been rightly scolded for treating Memorial Day a bit too much like Veterans Day. My two commentaries this week are about Tomas Young, shot by a sniper in 2004, who took 10 years to die and before then, emerged as an opponent of the Iraq war. (If you haven’t seen Body of War, you might want to make it your Memorial Day viewing.)
Tomorrow’s NewsworksWHYY piece will focus on the new book Tomas Young’s War — whose author, Mark Wilkerson, came to Philadelphia.The book chronicles Young’s final years, after an embolism stole the activist’s voice and ultimately his life. (Anoxic brain injury, for those in the know.) I read it in a day, cried a lot.
Then, with Mark’s help, I interviewed Young’s mother for my old shop Women’s Voices for Change, and reflected on those who, like her, have lost people to war. She works at Target, where her coworkers have spent the week chirping “Happy Memorial Day!”
More later, and I’ll add live links as they post. As a civilian, I’m not in a position to scold anyone for what they do this weekend. For me, it’s time to give respect to the dead, even as we question why.
(The guy who sang the song above didn’t serve, but his dad Ernest sure did, spending the rest of his life in nightmares.)
The piece behind yesterday’s photos went up today at the Inquirer, with a small amount of reader mail. Ak of the latter (so far) was respectful, and some of it was of the sort that reminds one why this profession is worth something. More than one was from people who were themselves soldier-dissenters — some others local Quaker types, one of whom writes:
I really like your commentary. It makes me feel better, more patriotic about Memorial Day. It’s the sort of thing that’s needed annually to bridge us to those of us who oppose wars of choice and support defense with those who feel all wars we fight ought to be supported.
I guess that’s the point: you can say “Happy Memorial Day” if you note the huge losses the day was meant to honor.
Have a great weekend.
That’s how I’ve tended to characterize the huge, diverse and boisterous movement working to stop the U.S, war against Vietnam, 1963-1975. I should have written an essay here about them last month, for the anniversary of the 1975 evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, but I could barely fit them in a chapter for the book.
A surprising number of the above, though, were recent veterans of World War II, who then popped into mind during the anniversary of V-E Day; so I wrote something that will run tomorrow in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Given space constraints, I’m informed there won’t be a photo: so here’s a photo preview of those included in the piece, which wasn’t even all of those in the movement. An honor roll of some for whom Memorial Day was an open wound, in their hearts every day:
Rev. William Sloane Coffin, greeting POW Americans in North Vietnam.
- Former Army intelligence officer William Sloane Coffin, founder of the hugely influential Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV).
- Howard Zinn, whose long career as an historian, organizer and inspiration to us all was preceded by the young (already anti-fascist) bombardier seen at right.
- Former Army cryptographer William Kunstler, who followed his Pacific service by co-founding the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented war resisters from Berrigan, above, through the years to Gulf War objector Colleen Gallagher in 1991. In 1968, his face and voice became inescapable during the trial of the Chicago Seven, as at right.
- And this skinny little private was Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, captured in the Battle of the Bulge, he became a prisoner of war — and turned that exoeriene into one of the strongest anti-war novels ever written.
I’ll post the link tomorrow, which includes more on all of these. There are so many more who I couldn’t squeeze l into 750 words: not Lew Ayres and the other World War II COs, not Rev. Paul Moore, who found his pacifism after the abbatoir of Guadalcanal. But I still think this is a fine Memorial Day tribute to those lost in all our wars.