Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day.

When a man like me reads about D-Day, or the Battle of Midway, or Gettysburg, or the Hundred Days Offensive, he cannot help but be astonished by the courage shown by the Americans involved, courage I have never needed or probably ever will need. The worst injury one person has ever inflicted on me was a kick to the solar plexus in sixth grade. It hurt. But no one has ever shot at me.

Not yet, anyway -- you never know -- but if they do it will be one insane person who got mad at wasting time with my knock-knock jokes, not hundreds of thousands of them.

I have a number of veterans among my acquaintances, and they rarely talk about their war experiences. Not to me, anyway. Why would they? Some people have experiences so outside our ordinary day-to-day blah that to describe them would be like speaking Latin to an Aleut. (An Aleut who doesn't speak Latin -- yes, don't be funny.)

It's almost hard to be properly grateful when you can't even understand the sacrifice. It ties in with my old Wonderama Theory of Human Sympathies.

You zygotes don't remember Wonderama, but it was a kids' TV show that ran for more than 20 years on Sunday mornings. There was one segment where kids from the audience would get up and sound off on things they hated. I remember one kid talking about getting bitten by an animal and having to go through rabies shots, something like eight big needles in the stomach in those days, very painful and quite frightening. The audience just looked at him. The next kid complained about how much he hated peas, and everyone went crazy cheering. No one had had rabies. Everyone hated peas.

When Hollywood wants to make a film about the military these days, the guys are either madmen, victims, or jerks. Hollywoodites have to filter everything through the lens given them by their Vietnam-dodging college professors. When so many of us were in the military or lived with people who had served or buried loved ones who had sacrificed everything, we could understand it. Now it's like a lost culture to us, mysterious as the early Etruscans.

I'm glad that I never had to serve. I'm glad most of us don't have to. But by abandoning our knowledge of war, we have lost something crucial in the understanding of those whose sacrifice allows us to be so ignorant. I often pray that our country may be more worthy of that sacrifice.

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