11/07/2016 by syrbal-labrys
Sometimes a fall day here in the Pacific Nor’west is not a wet gray rainy mess! On the occasional clear beautiful morning, I try to take to the tasks that are better done when not feeling icy raindrops down the back of the neck — like yesterday.
Yesterday I raked the piles of wet yellow cherry leaves off the stones of the Labyrinth. The Boston Ivy leaves (above) are beginning to fall — but the bin was filled with leaves and small pine branches downed on the Walk alone. So those wait for another day. Although I dislike yard work, as a rule, for some reason the autumnal clean up always cheers me. Perhaps because I know that the next three months will not involve yard work — which will begin again in February? And it always makes me have time to think without interruption.
I saw an article this morning about what our Founding Fathers “left out” of the Hellenic Greek model of democracy when they began our nation. It reminded me of Hellenic religion — some of the tenets of which have had an effect on my rituals at the Walk of the Fallen Labyrinth since 2003. The Hellenic Greeks thought it a civic crime to not care for the dead of war properly — funerals, honors, remembrances. If you have any version of a civic religion, it seems this is not a bad idea; that and maybe caring for those who come back ALIVE and messed about in various ways mental and physical.
Those alive at least still can speak for themselves once they feel up to it, and their families can help them. Who do the dead have? In the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it seemed as our very Commander in Chief (not then Obama, btw, for your history-ignorant Trump supporters) just telling America to be normal and “go shopping,” that our dead troops were NOT being honored and remembered. I remember Viet Nam — caskets coming off airplanes, flag draped and solemn in sun or rain at least noted what the choices of of government were costing us.
Now, not so much. Even mention on the national news of deaths in war is a rather recent thing — for several years, only local news would list the deaths of local men and women. It was shameful, in my not-at-all-humble, and yes-very-angry-indeed opinion. The American federal budget spends a lot on military spending. Too much, to my mind. One would think soldiering was a great way to make a living judging from the budget. But most of that budget isn’t put INTO the troops.
And since only 1% of Americans are the volunteer military, most Americans think little about what that life entails. At least in Hellenic Greece, most male citizens were expected to come to the defense of their city-state. In Sparta every male was trained to be a military paragon in battle — since they conveniently had slaves to do all the other tasks necessary for life.
I think America could benefit from some similar concept. I believe every citizen, male or female, should need to do some form of service for at least two if not three years. Sure, not everyone is up to being a super soldier — but do you know, there used to be a wide range of jobs that had nothing to do with combat? Jobs maintaining landscaping and housing and transport, for instance. Now those jobs all go to civilian contractors that cost several times as much as what the military specialists in charge were once paid. Those jobs could all be military again. It would actually SAVE money in the defense budget.
And it would give young Americans a look at what it means to be military. It would give some job skills to many. It would give young men and women a chance to experience people from other places, to see other areas in their own nation — it would broaden minds AND shoulders. And if we did have a war, it would mean the ordinary Americans were suddenly more interested in why, where, and for how long.
I wouldn’t feel the dead were neglected, in such a nation. Nor would I worry as much about the same troops being sent back for nine, ten, FIFTEEN combat tours of duty because there weren’t any more troops to send. Don’t you think Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day would mean more if it were shared by more than 1% of the population? I know most folks sure would prefer to share the cash rewards of being part of that other 1% – the filthy rich! Only seems fair the burden of military service and all it entails — good and bad — could be shared by more than the bottom economic 1%!