Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Faulty memories on Mem Day

NY1, the all-news station here, had a welcome piece yesterday about the thousands of homeless veterans living in the streets of our city. But in general, the lack of a critical eye in the Memorial Day coverage was notorious, which is both understandable and disturbing.

When people are mourning loved ones who died while serving in uniform, it’s appropriate for reporters to keep a respectful distance. But given the social and human impact of decisions about war and our vast military apparatus, it’s reasonable to expect some sober thinking applied to how we talk to each other about it, in the choice of stories covered and the language used. For example, after more than a decade of ongoing debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, how can anyone call military service today ‘defending the American way of life’ with a straight face? Foreign invasions might conceivably be necessary, and it's an appropriate topic for debate. But I'm sorry, they have very little to do with the defense of Iowa.

That was a constant of the patriotic reporting yesterday along with a major absence: the physically and mentally maimed and wounded. If we are going to honor the troops, how about some focus on the costs our military actions have imposed on them?

Furthermore, is the ongoing sequester of government monies not relevant to the services suffering veterans need? How come elected officials get to preside over events with beautiful seas of American flags waving in the breeze, but no one dares to ask them if they’ll provide the tax money to see to soldiers’ needs? Would that be considered rude?

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