Yesterday New York City hosted a parade for the New York Giants football team down the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan. Thousands of people gathered to cheer the winners of the football’s Super Bowl. But, lingering in the background, is a debate about whether or not New York City should host a similar parade for the returning veterans of the Iraq War. A veterans group is pushing for it. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that the Defense Department has asked that he wait until the war in Afghanistan is over as well.
I have to admit to mixed feelings about it all.
On one hand we have made sports a religion and we worship its victors.
And, we speak about games being battles and plays being “fought out in the trenches.” Maybe we all need to reread All Quiet on the Western Front to remember what we are really speaking about when we use those words.
On the other hand, I wonder about a parade for our returning armed forces.
Please, don’t get me wrong.
We certainly should honor their service and their sacrifice.
We certainly should recognize the sacrifice of their families.
We certainly should do all we can to help them reintegrate into the life of the community with jobs and mental health support and medical care when needed.
But, I can’t help feeling we are being a bit disingenuous about it all.
Much has been made about thanking our service men and women, and they deserve our thanks, but those who serve are coming from a smaller and smaller segment of our population. The community in which I live doesn’t have 50% of its high school graduates entering the armed forces. My children are not subject to call ups and to repeated deployments. To tell you the truth, I am not sure what to make of it all. Are we thanking them for doing something that, if we really believe in the war being fought, all of us should have a greater stake in, as well?
And, while I want to honor and to respect those who have served, I do not want to glorify war. We should be abhorred by it. The casualties and the destruction should make us sick to our stomach. The suffering of both the combatants and the innocent civilians should bring tears to our eyes.
If it doesn’t…
If war remains sanitized…
It will continue to be far too easy to go to war again.