Expanded from the Sunday, 5-30-2004, Daily
Sparks, Nev., Tribune
edited for the 6-3-2004 Comstock Chronicle
So here we are, another Memorial Day weekend honoring hot dogs, baseball and the freedom of auto and furniture retailers to have "the greatest sale in our history."
ON THIS DAY in 1883, Memorial Day (originally known as Decoration Day, suggested by a New York pharmacist as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War veterans, and first held in 1866) became a legal holiday in Nevada.
Courtesy of Poor Denny's Almanac
ON 5-31-1966, Pierre Rinfret said this to Look Magazine: "In practical terms, wealth invested in war goods might as well be sunk in the ocean. Tanks and fighters do not produce new wealth. Teachers and factories do. Peace is the environment in which the flower of free enterprise grows, flourishes and bears fruit. Peace is now the stable ground of prosperity."
I guess those reasons are as good as any to mask the real object of celebration: death. Which is better than it used to be. Holidays named "Armistice Day" (World War One) and "VE Day" and "VJ Day" (for World War Two "victories" in Europe and Japan) were memorials to war. At least reincarnations named "Veterans Day" and "Memorial Day" force us to look at the cost of such human folly.
Notwithstanding outraged protest to the contrary, the price of lives can be measured. You can actually put a pencil to the lost productivity of each slain soldier, if not the mental anguish of family, friends and communities.
As world class economist Pierre A. Rinfret said in 1966 and recently reiterated to me, "peace is bullish." Societies spend money on war at the peril of their futures.
We squander our national wealth on increasingly efficient death production, which is very beneficial for warmongering businesses from Lockheed-Martin to 20th Century Fox.
All of those Schwarzeggerian war movies romanticize the stinking and gruesome rituals of tribal violence we have never outgrown as a species. Our children grow up playing some sort of soldier, usually starting with cowboys and Indians. We can't wait to put kids into some form of military discipline, no matter whether the uniform is that of the heteroscouts or little league.
Our priorities are evident in the law of the land engraved on the paper in your wallet We currently spend a half a trillion dollars a year on war and killing.
The U.S.A. military meatgrinder is running out of fresh cattle, so the federal government has quietly begun bringing the mechanism of the draft out of mothballs. It will ramp up in earnest come mid-November.
The clever or the wealthy will be able to buy their way out, as always. But most of today's youthful pawns will have little choice. Their bleak economic futures will force them to risk death, injury, dismemberment, forcible rape and prison terms as examples or scapegoats. They will kill and be killed by similar young people from other lands whose prospects have likewise been dimmed by their rulers.
In Frank Norris' muckraker novel "The Octopus," based on the Mussel Slough Tragedy in central California about a century ago, an idealistic poet named Presley makes an appointment with the head of the railroad which had murdered his friends. The old man named Shelgrim talks Presley out of assassinating him, reminding the young writer that men don't matter, "there are only forces."
Shelgrim's corporate successors force control over our lives today. When big companies want something, their subsidiary in Washington responds. United Fruit wanted to keep central Americans poor and subservient and the U.S. government was only too happy to respond. For a hundred years and counting, we have made sure Chiquita Banana's republics dance to our greedy tune.
The litany has been sung worldwide. You don't have enough fingers and toes to count the countries we have screwed over, sullying the name of democracy in order to serve corporate greed. We don't want democracy in the middle east. We crushed a well-functioning, democratically elected government in Iran in 1953. Why? The British wanted their oil refinery back.
NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET
Mike on the road with Crackers the Corporate Crime-Fighting Chicken.
The coup was orchestrated out of the U.S. embassy, which is why a group of radicals took our embassy staff hostage in 1979. They didn't want to see us pull an instant replay.
The list of countries is long but not endless. The list of human lives lost and disrupted will never be completely known. We continue to send young people to war only to abuse them when they return.
Dubya actually cut veterans health care!
What to do? I can only repeat the advice of the father of our country. In his farewell address, George Washington said to avoid foreign entanglements. Message ignored.
As he was leaving office, another ex-general, Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned of the increasing power of what he dubbed the "military-industrial complex." Message ignored.
When Michael Moore's new film "Fahrenheit 9/11" (which has little chance of being shown in the U.S.) won the Cannes Film Festival equivalent of the best picture Oscar last week, he said that it was his purpose to ensure that those who have died in our latest military misadventure will not have died in vain.
How can we make that happen? By remembering that peace is bullish and by making that our national priority. Permanently.
PEACE BRIEFS: Local resident Martha Liou is spreading the word nationally advocating people to tie a yellow ribbon for peace. Do it. (Click here to read some Yellow-Ribbon Rants.)
At 1:00 p.m. this Tuesday, the Reno Anti-War Coalition will hold a press conference about the Iraq War on the front steps of the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Building at S. Virginia and Liberty streets in downtown Reno. They want some face time with pro-war Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev.
"For weeks, the anti-war coalition has repeatedly requested a meeting during the Memorial Day recess to share concerns about the war. If the meeting is granted, the news conference will be an opportunity to tell the media what the group told the Congressman," stated a news release.
"If the meeting is not granted, the event may provide another way for the group to tell Congressman Gibbons what they think about the war in Iraq," the statement said.
On June 9, representatives of all presidential candidates will tape a debate about Iraq at the SNCAT community access TV studios at Kietzke and Peckham in Reno. Those who want to be in the audience should arrive by 7:50 p.m. For more info, call 775-843-8026.
Happy Memorial Day. Pray for a bullish peace.
Be well. Raise hell.
Copyright © 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 35-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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