[Ed. note: Please welcome to the C&L team our old friend Ian Welsh, whose work from the Agonist and FDL many of you many know. Ian will be writing whatever he chooses, but that usually means economics and international politics.]
It's Memorial Day. I gather for many it's just another long weekend, but I know that for many it's what Remembrance Day is for Canadians like myself: a day to remember those who have died in war. I won't say "died to protect our freedom" or any such trite BS, because with few exceptions, most wars had nothing to do with protecting anyone's freedom, but they did die, nonetheless, for us.
Their blood is on our hands, sticky and wet, and it will never dry. Why?
Because we live in democracies. Because we elected the leaders who sent them to war. Whether you think those wars are justified, or not, at the end of the day, we bear the collective guilt of their deaths. They died due to the decisions we made, the society we live in.
Oh, we can say "I did everything I could to oppose the war", whether that's Iraq or Vietnam, or some other war. But even if that's true, well, you failed, didn't you? (Didn't I?) And so off went the young men and women, and they died, or they were maimed, or their brain case got knocked around and they came back shaking, and they wake up screaming at night, and they can't control their emotions and they'll never be the same again.
It's one of the ironies of democracy that we're all responsible, collectively, and yet each of us, individually, can say "but not me, I voted against him" or "I protested against that policy". And because it's true, each of us can feel, in the end, that the deaths and suffering caused by our society, whether in war, or through a horrific medical system, or through abuses in the penal system, aren't our fault.
But is it true? Or is it true instead, that we failed, that we support the system with both our consent and our tax dollars, and that we are therefor complicit in what it does?
I don't know. But I do know this, on this Memorial day, even if it's not a Canadian holiday, I'm thinking of those who died, both soldiers and civilian.
And at the very least, I know I failed.