Thoughts on Memorial Day
Proud to be a Card-Carrying, Flag-Waving, Patriotic American Liberal
May 30, 1994
Memorial Day has always been a somber time for me in my adult life. I have taken the time every Memorial Day weekend to ponder the meaning of the occasion, and some years the results of that pondering have been nearly overwhelming.
It is one thing to die. We all know someone who has died. We all know we will die ourselves some day.
To give up one's life to protect or save the lives of others is the ultimate act of love, especially since the only thing each of us really owns is our own life.
Yet, on Memorial Day, we honor those whose lives - and whose deaths - go even beyond that ultimate love. To die in the service to one's country - to die in the service to the United States of America - adds such a powerful meaning to that death. It touches a chord deep in my soul.
To give up one's life in service to country speaks of a love that reaches beyond those faces known to us, beyond our hometown or even home state. It speaks of a love that reaches across flooding rivers, soars to snow-covered mountain peaks, talks to the stars. It is a love that cries out from the gut, and says "my country, and all the people in it, are worth anything I have to give - even that."
I would guess that many of the young men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice did not take the time to articulate their feelings. It is still not macho to talk about love. But their actions speak so much louder than their words.
They were there when they were needed, and they did what they had to do, because they knew it was important. And they did it for me. For you. For all the millions of faceless people they never knew, along with the hundreds and thousands they did know, and who knew their names.
They did it so you and I could spend another Memorial Day weekend, and another week and another year of our lives, in peace within our borders.
As a citizen of the United States of America, I treasure that commitment to a country, and to a philosophy of government founded on the respect for diversity of all of its people. It is a commitment that ennobles us all, and points out, as no other gesture could, the power and importance of love in our lives and in our world.
So it has been with great chagrin lately that I have witnessed members of Congress and officials in the Pentagon treating our active military personnel and their families as second-class citizens.
I am outraged that members of Congress, and congressional wannabees, are suggesting that we should keep unnecessary military bases open because it costs too much to clean up the toxic waste sites before turning the property over to civilians. That is saying that it is OK for military people and their families to live, work, eat and sleep on top of toxic wastes, but we have to clean everything up before we let REAL people inside.
I am outraged that the Pentagon dismisses health complaints from veterans, Vietnam veterans and now Gulf War veterans, and refuses to release, or denies the existence of, known reports on possible chemical causes.
I am outraged that people in the military have been used as guinea pigs, in bomb testing, radiation exposure, and most recently in an unscientific yet full-scale experiment to test immunity to chemical weapons in the Gulf War.
I am a Democrat running for Congress in Maine's 2nd District, for the seat now held by Olympia Snowe. Many times in the last nine months, people have asked me why I would want to do that to myself, to put myself in the midst of the vipers in Washington, why I would want to spend such a precious chunk of the only life I have trying to tackle the problems of the nation and the world.
I have always known the answer was deep down inside. I have spoken about it before, but fumbled for words.
This Memorial Day weekend has crystallized my answer to that question.
I am running for Congress out of love and out of outrage. Love for what is all around me, in this state, in this nation and in this world. Love for the people, for other living things, for the sheer forces of nature.
And outrage over what those in a position of authority are doing to us, supposedly in the name of love, but actually in the name of personal greed and lust for power.
In the United States of America, elections are about issues and philosophies. Voters should be deciding who to send to Washington based on a candidate's view of life and approach to problems. It is critical that we voters send to Congress those with the right priorities.
My priorities are people and the planet, and I will apply those priorities in my hard effort to balance the federal budget.
I will do so because all the interest on the national debt that we are paying to bankers and investors is not being spent on the real needs at hand and is dragging down our standard of living.
I will do so because all the fancy military hardware or corporate tax write-offs in the world will do us no good if we can't breath the air, drink the water, eat uncontaminated food, get to and from our homes and schools in safety, and have a healthy place in which to live and work.
We have a primary election in Maine on June 14. Free elections are an integral part of our system of government for which our veterans have died. To honor their love for us, we should vote every chance we get. Our fallen veterans deserve no less from us.