Monday, May 28, 2012

My memorial

kw: observances

This Memorial Day, I remember first, the ones who were lucky enough to return home: my father, who fought in World War II and in the Korean War, and my grandfather, who fought in World War I. My father is living, so I will not put his name here, nor his father's. My great uncle Bill Nye was also in World War I, but though he returned home, it was with burned out lungs from poison gas. He died within two years. And my uncle Lindsey Luster was a pilot in World War II, shot down in France in 1942.

Digging back in the family tree, I find a couple of Civil War soldiers, and while I have a number of ancestors who lived in colonial times, I don't know whether any were in the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.

It is sometimes mere chance, who returns and who does not. A bullet or mortar round can snuff a life so fast. But those who fight for their country know they are going into harm's way. I find it amazing that the more recent American wars have been so much "safer" than those prior to 1950. American men, and some women, died at the rate of 100,000 per year during World War II. By contrast, the death toll during the Vietnam era (25 years long!) was somewhat more than 2,000 per year. Terrible, but of a different order of magnitude. And the last decade of two Middle Eastern wars has ground along at about 1,000 per year. The American war machine is now more dangerous for our enemies, and safer for our troops, than ever.

Nonetheless, 1,000 or more deceased heroes per year, and thousands more with lifelong injuries, is the price of continued freedom. And decisions being made right now may result in either a greater toll in the future, or perhaps a lesser one. There are continuing dangers in the world.

It is with surprise then that I find our national elections seldom attract more than 60% of eligible voters. To those of you who do not vote: you are wasting the blood of our patriots. Do you wish for a day to come that voting is no longer? That there is no need to vote because the right has been taken away? Complacency plays into the hands of those who wish to attain power without resorting to elections.

You may love our President, or you may hate him. You may love his opponent, or you may hate him (or her; the convention has not yet been held). Perhaps you are passionate about one or another congressional candidate. It is most distressing if you don't care much, if you don't care enough to vote for anyone. It has been said that we get the leaders we deserve. Perhaps this election will set the country on a course that removes the electoral process, or it may instead strengthen it. The primary factor in that decision is not which candidate you vote for, but whether you vote at all.

Get off your duff and vote.

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