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Monday, May 28, 2018
Another look at Memorial Day- "Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?"
on June 2, 1976 in the Boston Globe and
republished in The
Zinn Reader with the brief introduction below.
Memorial Day will be celebrated … by the usual
betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and
contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on
future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication.
To peace, to defiance of governments.
In 1974, I was invited by Tom Winship, the editor
of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print
part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to
write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. I did that for
about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection
with that year’s Memorial Day. After it appeared, my column was cancelled.
* * * * *
Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by
high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the
sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.
It will also be celebrated by the display of
flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking
It will be celebrated by giant corporations,
which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless
assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be
approved soon by Congress and the President.
was a young woman in New Hampshire who refused to allow her husband, killed
in Vietnam, to be given a military burial. She
rejected the hollow ceremony ordered by those who sent him and 50,000 others to
their deaths. Her courage should be cherished on Memorial Day. There were the
B52 pilots who refused to fly those last vicious raids of Nixon’s and
Kissinger’s war. Have any of the great universities, so quick to give honorary
degrees to God-knows-whom, thought to honor those men at this Commencement
time, on this Memorial Day?
politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no
general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities,
should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past
wars be honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass
“The shell had his number on it. The blood ran
into the ground…Where his chest ought to have been they pinned the
Congressional Medal, the DSC, the Medaille Militaire, the Belgian Croix de
Guerre, the Italian gold medal, The Vitutea Militara sent by Queen Marie of
Rumania. All the Washingtonians brought flowers .. Woodrow Wilson brought a
bouquet of poppies.”