A Memorial For The USA

by admin on 2017/05/28

Jimbaux sees a darkness behind that red, white, and blue.

Honoring Fallen Americans, And A Fallen America

It’s Memorial Day Weekend.  As a way of commemorating the sacrifices that are to be commemorated on this day, The Duke, Nonc, and I made a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and our first stop was at a convenience store just after we entered Mississippi, so that I could get some munchies.

These first two scenes were made right after we crossed into Mississippi at the southernmost place it is possible to enter the state of Mississippi by land with an automobile, the US Highway 90 crossing of the East Pearl River.

There are many neat old bridges along this route.

Forty minutes later, we are in Bay St. Louis, stopping for a visit at St. Stanislaus.

This is the Brothers Of The Sacred Heart cemetery behind the school.

As The Shadow Warrior and other southeastern Louisiana Catholic school boys – yours truly, included – could tell you, St. Stanislaus was where you were threatened to be sent if you were bad in school.

The Duke knew some of the men whose remains are buried here.

This place had a different feel than any cemetery that I have visited.

Part of that feel stemmed from the graves themselves, but part of it was due to its open access, not ‘protected’ by a fence or shrubs or any other such things.

That was all for our visit.  Now, it was time to get on that big new bridge and continue eastward to see what we came to see.

An hour later, we arrive at our destination, Biloxi National Cemetery, here on this most troubling of Memorial Day weekends.

As we look at the graves of the remains of these men and women whose lives we honor, I now am saddened by what has happened to the country that they fought to defend.

And I wonder, too, what Mr. Lincoln would think what not only his political party but also his country has become.

In the current regime and climate, now that basic humanity itself has somehow become political, everything must be reassessed.

On this Memorial Day, as many various citizens honor the dead, the country itself is spitting on the ideals for which the war dead and the veterans supposedly fought, and to make more such deaths and wars more likely.

There are so many ways to honor the dead.  One of the ways that we could honor the fallen is to invest in diplomacy, which is essential to avoid more war and death.

Instead, we are decimating funding for the State Department – the national government department that exists to, among other things, prevent war – and eroding the alliances that support peace.

Platitudes like “remember the fallen” are nice, but they are empty, hollow, and hypocritical – and even counterproductive – if they aren’t matched by policy.

For the first time in my life, I’m truly embarrassed and even ashamed of what my country has become.

No, not even George W. Bush made me feel this way, and I thrice traveled outside of the country twice during his Presidency, albeit only to Canada and Mexico.

Lest you think that I’m “making” this political, it already is political; I’m merely pointing it out.

I have had to reflect on all of the signs from the past, from my own personal experiences, that pointed to the wretchedness that has overtaken the country, and what could have been done about them.

If you regularly follow this publication, you’ve seen my recent decennial retrospective blog articles.  The process of creating them has me thinking plenty about what was happening in 2007, especially around this time of the year.  During this time, I was working in the construction industry because Hurricane Katrina had displaced my teaching job, but I was thinking about returning to the school-teaching profession for the upcoming school year. A comment that intended to have a somewhat-but-not-fully opposite effect encouraged me to return to the teaching profession.

Some time in the late spring or early summer of 2007 (meaning, right about 10 years ago), I had a conversation with my grandmother that wasn’t pleasant.  We – along with at least one aunt present – briefly discussed the possibility that I’d return to the teaching profession, and my grandmother, whom I miss dearly, said, apparently (as best as I could guess based on her tone and inflection) out of concern for my safety, that whatever I do, “don’t go teach the blacks.”

I don’t recall exactly how I responded to this troubling, revealing, but not really surprising (she was, afterall, a woman of her time, when that sentiment was very common among white people) admonition, but I recall it not being much more than a weak smile, probably partly because I presumed that it came from a place of concern about her grandson’s safety and probably partly because I just didn’t want to protest a statement from my grandmother, just because she was my grandmother.

Perhaps partly due to the shame that I felt at not pushing back against my grandmother’s admonition to not “go teach the blacks,” I was more motivated than ever to return to the teaching profession, to the predominantly black classrooms where I had worked the year before; I did, and I had the best three years of my life doing that work yet again.

But what did it mean that I didn’t protest my grandmother’s admonition?

I was pissed off, but I said nothing.  I spent the school year before that like I spent three school years after that, teaching at a majority black school (in some cases, I was the only non-black person in the classroom), and, here, my grandmother was telling me that the students with whom I had developed such good relations and whom I had been able to inspire to learn either were not worth teaching or were too scary for me to teach, but the end result is the same; I wonder what she thought that I thought of them.

In the last two or three years, with racism getting, as Will Smith said, “filmed,” and with the white masses’ reflexive support of it, and then with Trumpism, I am now questioning what that complicity, what tolerating bigotry from family members and other associates, has cost the world.

Until recently, I was like plenty of white people, thinking that there was nothing more to racism and sexism than conscious intent and dislike, but I have learned that, as with Nietzsche’s distinction between master morality and slave morality, it’s about outcome, not about intention.

And, so, as I look at these graves, I can no longer avoid thinking about the awful chasm that exists between our stated national ideals and our actions and the outcomes that they create.

And it pains me evermore to know that the country in which I thought that I lived is not.

“I know that you’re shocked, but this is the way that it has always been,” a black friend said to me shortly after the November election.  Thinking again about my grandmother’s admonition that I “don’t go teach the blacks,” I see it now, and it’s a horribly painful sight.

My best hope here is that “sunshine is the best disinfectant,” that these ugly truths surfacing will prompt some introspection among all Americans.

I miss my grandparents terribly, but I’m glad that they didn’t live to see so much of that for which their generation fought in World War II and the Cold War pissed away in the last couple of years.

However, what is most troubling to me is the thought that it is possible that they themselves would have participated in that betrayal.

I am almost certain that if a certain few extended family members read this (I don’t think that any of them read this) that they’d be upset that I shared a personal story that included an unfortunate comment my grandmother (notice that I didn’t say which grandmother) made, but that’s precisely the problem.  She’s dead, my sharing of that story wouldn’t affect her livelihood if she was alive, and she was, afterall, a woman of her generation, with the sentiment she expressed being very common – if not the norm – for white people where and when she grew up and lived her life, and we cannot allow some ridiculously fragile and misplaced sense of ‘honor’ or whatever stop us from facing the hard truths, from examining how our ancestors have affected us and how our silence has been complicity.

The story isn’t about my grandmother.  The story is about us, today, and what we do about it going forward.

This is the same mentality that says the Confederate States of America was good and is worthy of honor simply because one’s ancestors fought for it, which is a disturbing rationalization that I hear from many defenders of C.S.A. iconography; thank goodness nearly all Germans today don’t think that just because their grandfathers fought for the Nazis that the Nazis were good.

That is tribalism, that is what is killing America, and that is what is killing Americans, including myself.

As a child, I heard plenty of “nigger,” not in my own home but in a few of the many homes of others that I frequently visited when I was little.  It’s taken me until the last couple of years to realize this, but when you repeatedly drop n-bombs in front of family members or other associates, and when you frequently make similarly denigrating remarks of others, especially those marginalized, you are driving a wedge between yourself and the rest of humanity, because you are signaling to those who hear you that they must pick between you and the rest of humanity, and you’re also slowly driving them away, because you’re signalling that you don’t value their humanity either.

Why do that?  Why make the people in your life pick between you and humanity?

On this Memorial Day, I am so saddened that so many of my countrymen have sold out their republic, pissed away what these men and women fought and died to protect, and, now, I wonder what role my own silence has played in this.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act,” Deitrich Bonhoeffer said.

I shall be silent no more.

This is a world of incredible abundance.  We live in a world in which farmers are going broke because they can’t sell their crops because they’re so cheap because technological advances have succeeded in making so much stuff!  Why do you think that it’s okay that we fight with each other so viciously?

And why are we attacking institutions that, as sloppy as their actions and as perverse as some of their incentives might be, exist to serve as a check on power?

My fear, and evidence for this theory mounts every day, is that opposition to things like unconditional basic income and universal health-care has less to do with taxes and money (basic income literally pays for itself) and more to do with desires for social control.

That’s what the “get a job” response is: treating the recipient like a slave or a possession.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about things that matter.

I understand that one of the downsides of the veneration of war dead that we do every Memorial Day is the glorification of conflict, and I wonder if our current completely needless national strife is because so many Americans just need enemies, that if they can’t find them abroad, they’ll find them at home.

That’s the problem of being defined by conflict, these pictures show it, but internal, racial conflicts are defining people, and it has deadly consequences.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

One of the more well-known persons whose remains are buried in this cemetery is Ira Welborn, a Medal of Honor recipient.

He also served in World War I after serving in a couple of military affairs of which the USA might not today be proud.

And maybe that is one of the lessons that we must ponder this and all Memorial Days.

Who do we wish to be?  What are our values?  What honor is there in fighting on behalf of anything that betrays our stated ideals and values?

That is interesting, the job title of “wagoner.”

I have always wanted to believe the idea that the military men and women were fighting for more than just mere tribal concerns, but, now, I painfully wonder.

This is the saddest Memorial Day that I have ever experienced, one in which I contemplate the potential hollowness of our stated ideals.

I’ve always wanted to believe the best in my country and its people, I’ve always stood up to defend them when our actions and ideals were criticized, but, now, millions of the people whom I have been defending have made it impossible for me to defend them; they’ve needlessly made me choose between them and the rest of humanity.

Why?  Why do so many Americans think that it needs to be this way?  Are we so hopelessly addicted to conflict that, even in this modern world of incredible abundance, we can’t help but seek out new enemies even after we have vanquished previous foes?

There are some rational reasons for this, though, and they are things that I think could be resolved or at least ameliorated with unconditional basic income, universal health care, and instant-runoff voting, but, for those first two to become a reality, we need the citizens of the modern world to understand that a modern, technologized market economy runs on demand.

That nearly all of us aren’t born into enough wealth to immunize us from the coercive power of others – including the free land that so many of our subsistence-farming ancestors, including mine, had – means that each of us is expected to take some form of identity related to something for which we are paid, all while “full employment” is no longer anywhere close to being necessary.

And, so, it is no wonder that, in this world without a legal means of subsistence for all and without basic income, everything is either political or potentially political, because, almost no matter who you are, the specific thing that you do to earn money is itself political, is subjected to changes in public policy, especially policies that might – intentionally or inadvertently – help some professions at the expense of some other professions.

So, in such a context as exists now sans basic income and universal healthcare, it makes plenty of sense that those who see specific jobs, especially mining and manufacturing jobs (that are being automated), as part of their identity and the best uses of their God-given abilities would fall for someone promising to restore those no-longer-necessary jobs, especially when the alternative is that you must work at Taco Bell.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Check out the writings on Ramos’s headstone.

The next headstone is interesting.  Randall would have been well into his 30s when his participation in World War II, and I wonder why he remained a private; I guess that he may have been black and, as such, took the low-ranking, low-pay military jobs that were relegated to black servicemen at the time.

Some local folks came out to visit their relatives.

I was struck, but not surprised, by the the solemnity of the mood here.

After that, it was time to leave.

We were hungry!  Nonc took us to a place with which he was familiar but to which The Duke and I had never been.

Both Nonc and I each had a fried shrimp salad, and I can’t remember what The Duke had.

We sat on the eastern side of the restaurant, and the above two images are cell-phone snaps.  After we finished our meals, I got the DSLR camera out again and shot some pictures.

With film rapidly become a thing of the past, is it even necessary to put the letter “D” in front of “SLR” anymore?

This little enclosure here is called Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

McElroy’s sits basically right in the middle of it, almost.

It seems to be a popular place.

It seems to be the kind of place that I’d enjoy much more if it weren’t so crowded, and, yes, of course that is my introversion speaking.

I like that little spit out there.  I’d have gone and hung out on it.

Hey, what is that flag up there?

Yeah, just advertise your white supremacist ideas to the world, won’t you?

Yeah, racism is alive and well, and it’s killing people of all races.

White people vote against universal health care out of the perception that it helps undeserving minorities, and, in the process, they harm themselves, too.

That’s what happens when you make rights conditional.

And the truth comes out, that all of this was always about controlling the bodies of others.

When you repeatedly vote to keep other people down, you ensure that you, too, get pulled down.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and that’s all for the pictures today. We stopped in Gulfport to check out the KCS yard and the diamond where the KCS crosses the CSX, and also the World War II memorial just to the south of it.

I hope that, in time, Trump voters and, especially, their children, come to understand the horror and shame that they have inflicted upon the world.

In my April 8 essay, I addressed many of the ridiculous criticisms made about my use of my personal blog to air my personal opinions about what others have inflicted upon all of us. Those criticisms sound similar to the criticisms made of New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu for his efforts in removing the city’s white supremacist monuments, specifically, the fallacious idea that he some how “divided the city” or “created division.”  The same is often said of President Obama for his involvement or policy on racial issues.

To say that Landrieu, Obama, or I created division or were divisive is to say that walking into a room and turning the light on makes the room dirty.  It’s stupid.  It’s to ignore that the divisions are already there.  It’s to ignore that those exerting and-or benefiting from the dominance are those responsible for the dominance and in a position to change it.

Now, most tragically, we have elected a President who is equally proud of his ignorance.

Nobody made anyone expend precious time and energy supporting the continued presence of white supremacist monuments.  Those who did expend such precious time and energy defending the continued presence of those monuments were being divisive.  They could have ignored it, could have said, “meh, whatevs, I don’t care,” or something else, but, no, they chose to double down on the division.

And those who think that removing monuments is divisive (as if any blank space is divisive), those who think that not addressing systemic racial disparities is divisive, and those who would think that it’s wrong to challenge statements like my grandmother’s “don’t go teach the blacks” believe in placating bigotry.

By telling me to not “go teach the blacks,” my grandmother was telling me to allow the same conditions that create her perception of black people to continue, for one of many things that can help underprivileged communities is better schools and better teachers, and my grandmother was telling me to deny my time and talents to improving the lot of black people thus.

We are so divided, and it is so sad and so unnecessary.

There is a better way.

I think that a big part of the problem, in addition to the fact that most of us don’t have enough land off of which to survive on our own, is that so many jobs fit specific personality types. Personality typing, especially MBTI, isn’t political yet, but it could be if public policy starts making decisions on whether or not it believes that personality is a choice, and, in a sense, this already happens with the lack of basic income, because people aren’t so much forced to do work to survive but are, rather, forced to be a specific thing to survive.

It doesn’t matter that you’re not a Trump supporter if you’re standing in the way of stopping him.

And, then, to not have a problem with such affinity for the autocratic Russia and its affinity for Trump?

Why?  Why support tribalism in a modern world of computers?  Why detest intelligence?

Why did you piss away America’s greatness?  Why not be a responsible adult and stop this madness?

Why, in a world of such abundance, did you vote to harm your fellow Americans?

Why?  Why do you want to tank the economy?  Why are you so full of hate?

A vote for Trump was a vote to harm other people, harm yourself, harm the US economy, and harm civilization.  How could you do this?

“but Hillary” was not, is not, and never will be an excuse; if you’re old enough to have voted, you’re old enough to not think like a teenage boy.

That’s what this is, and that’s what you voted for: bullying.

And you could remove Trump tomorrow, and the effects would last for at least another generation.

And I wish that you’d realize that money spent on health-care is put back into the economy and quickly finds its way back to “the working man.”

And I wish that you’d realize that the fact that health care has gotten so “expensive” is a sign of human progress, that we’ve succeeded in automating away most primary sector and secondary sector jobs, providing us with such abundance, that what’s actually happening is the cost of you – your labor – is going down.

I wish that you’d realize the horror of attacks on the press.

I weep for my country.

What we memorialize today is not just the dead, but the country itself.

What a shame all of this is.

JBX

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