By William PLEASANT
Today, the US secular religious cult celebrated Memorial Day.
We were urged to give thanks--apolitically--to the US military personnel
who "died for our freedoms". The day was marked with military parades and
mountainous steaming piles of sentimental oratory. President Buckwheat Obama stood on the altar of US imperialism and called forth a deluge of crocodile tears.
Meanwhile, retail outlets badgered the appropriately mournful patriotic masses to soothe their bereavement with the purchase of a new car or sofa. That was the holiday. That was Memorial Day 2012, America's secular Easter--death and resurrection symbolized by the custom of lowering the flag to half-mast at dawn and then raising it at noon.
As marxists, we understand the political and cultural function of holidays. Aside from their transparent commercial utility, holidays serve a specific political use for the ruling stratum.
Karl Marx wrote:"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the
heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people."
The US secular religion is no less a narcotic. The CHURCH USA, as I style it, holds that every military escapade, past and present, is the work of an omniscient and benevolent god tasked with spreading his bounty--mainly consumer good, armaments and crass materialism--around the globe. The daily slaughter of civilians and military personnel is a necessary good for the glory of god who resides everywhere except in the political, social and financial agenda of the ruling class. One knows not where wars come from, but they are the will of the invisible god of America. Memorial Day serves to keep that god under wraps.
Today, President Obama, the Pope of the CHURCH USA, in his Washington DC Memorial Day sermon, used the occasion to do a little historical revision on the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. At the Vietnam war monument, he chastised past sinners for their apparent maltreatment of Vietnam War-era military personnel upon their return to the US.
"It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.
"That's why here today we resolve that it will not happen again," Obama told veterans and their families gathered on the national mall.
"You were often blamed for a war you didn't start when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor."
Indeed, returning members of the military were the target of national outrage over the illegal war in Vietnam. As operatives of a policy that was rejected by huge sectors of the population, they suffered the same repudiation as their civilian and military superiors. They were reviled for clear cut political reasons. Why did people throw garbage at returning soldiers? Namely, because military personnel committed atrocities against the Vietnamese people in the name of propping up the appallingly corrupt, neo-colonial clique known as the Republic of Vietnam. Most American people, particulary youths and non-whites, detested the war policy. They acted out on their political opposition. As Obama pointed out, that was a sin and the American people should sin no more.
But why shouldn't the gunslingers of US imperialism in Vietnam have been subjected to criticism and rebuke? Why, in a like manner, the marauding assassins who today operate in Afghanistan and Iraq not be called to task for their role in barbarizing the people in those countries?
Isn't a hitman as guilty of murder as is his employer?
The CHURCH USA requires a yearly mass supplication called Memorial Day to ward off the rather transparent fact that US military policy makers and their minions in the trenches are equally guilty of ongoing crimes against humanity. Memorial Day is merely a ploy to deflect political criticism of imperialistic military aggression by but again exploiting the cannonfodder class--dead and alive--as poster children. They bravely served the country, so they are worthy of our mourning and sympathy, correct? "The country" is really a myth. The military serves its paymaster, the ruling stratum. They kill for the ruling stratum. They occupy countries for the ruling stratum. And they make money, in the productive process of war manufacture, for the ruling stratum. Memorial Day is supposed to blind us with tears to the extent that we cannot discern the obvious.
The truth of the matter is that the holiday that we now call Memorial Day was invented by Black people in Charleston, SC. It was a political celebration based upon honoring dead Union Soldiers in the aftermath of the Civil War.
According to historian David Blight:
"During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the planters' horse track, the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, into an outdoor prison. Union soldiers were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of exposure and disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand. Some 28 black workmen went to the site, re-buried the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, "Martyrs of the Race Course."
"Then, [B]lack Charlestonians, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people on the slaveholders' race course. [May 1, 1865--Ed.]. The symbolic power of the low-country planter aristocracy's horse track (where they had displayed their wealth, leisure, and influence) was not lost on the freed people. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event and described, "a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before."
This holiday--originally called DECORATION DAY-- caught on throughout the Unionist states. But its political meaning was quickly transformed by the bourgeoisie in the 1870s. Disdainful of freed Blacks and in opposition to radical Reconstructionists/progressives who saw Decoration Day as a celebration of Black emancipation and the victory of social progress, Decoration Day was quickly transformed into a spectacle of national mourning for ALL deceased US military personnel from ALL wars--including dead Confederate soldiers from the Civil War!!!! This was quite convenient, since the northern ruling stratum had grown weary of Reconstruction and was eager to get on with making money with the assistance of the previously defeated Southern aristocracy. Reconstruction was abandoned in 1876, with the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. The former rebel slave-owners were freed to initiate a reign of terror against the emancipated slaves and their white supporters. Blood flowed in the streets of the South. Meanwhile, a myth of national unity was anchored in all-embracing holiday of reconciliation between white men of the North and South. Modern Memorial Day was born.
Through the years and until the end of World War II, Decoration Day--renamed Memorial Day--served the task of inculcating the myth of US national unity--actually a unity of cadavers who had previously engaged in corporatized ultra-violence. But as US imperialism went into over-drive following WWII, leading to dozens of military adventures of at best dubious justifications, the theme of national unity was supplanted with a theme of worshiping the act of war making and its executioner. That was, in fact, the substance of Obama's sermon today. According to Pres. Buckwheat, we were supposed to reward mass murderers with praise as a reflex of patriotism .