Memorial Day

Three moments from this weekend.

Moment 1: Tink and Zeugma were agitated Saturday morning, and there was a lot of noise from the open front windows as I read and typed. There was a demonstration on Main Street, an anti-Iraq-war parade up to the gate, and I live one block over. And I’ll admit: reader, I couldn’t look.

I knew I wasn’t going to go into work on Saturday, what with Cheney giving the address, but I hadn’t anticipated what it might mean to work from home on a Saturday morning. There was the racket that I usually associate with football games, and then, as I read and typed, there was something else.

Something like: “Morons for peace!”

Something like: “Join the American Communist Party!”

Something like: “Have some marijuana!”

Something like: “Go home, hippie!”

I was flabbergasted. I still am. I know this is an Army town. I served, and I know a lot of the folks in town served, and it means a lot to them. But counterdemonstrators — hecklers — bellowing at “Morons for peace”?

Who in the world, reader, is not for peace, especially among soldiers, who have the most to lose? And so I felt two things I couldn’t reconcile.

The first was anger at what I wanted to categorize as redneck foolishness: for taunts, the ones I heard through my window were as silly and superannuated as one could imagine.

The second was anger at the demonstrators I imagined as so self-righteous and self-absorbed that they’d be foolish enough to try and take away from what my students have done and what they’re going to be called to do. How dare you, I thought, when the first place these kids go is going to be Iraq or Afghanistan, and you have to mar their achievement, on their day, with invective. When they’re so good, so generous, so big-hearted.

When we bury so many.

Moment 2: I drove up to Amherst on Sunday. I saw my attorney, and we dined on beer and sausages, and I saw some other friends as well, who remarked upon Andy Card being booed off the stage at the UMass graduation.

When I saw the video, I howled. I cackled. I loved it. This man, who so publicly lied to so many people, who holds responsibility for the deaths of soldiers via his duplicity, who was refused by even John Ashcroft in a crude and vile attempt to do something illegal — yes, this man was booed off stage by everyone around him, faculty and students alike.

That’s the value of his honorary degree.

Moment 3: Seven years ago, Daniel and I had beers together at Silky’s, in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. He told me about how easy the Special Forces Q-course was, and how hard other things had been. He was as sweet and intense as he always was.

He was earnest, and I miss him.

Edit: I always get kinda caught up when I think about Daniel. But my bigger point, I guess, was about my different reactions to political demonstrations. My politics make me sympathetic toward the demonstrators in both cases — but in the case of the demonstration here, that sympathy was mixed with frustration at the demonstrators who I saw as in some way diminishing my students’ big day. Toward the students and faculty members who booed Andy Card off the stage, I felt no such frustration. A difference in rhetorical kairos, maybe? The demonstrators on Main Street certainly weren’t winning anyone over to their side, and in fact were probably increasing the antagonism to their position among some observers.

Is it sometimes easier to win support by being quiet?

Memorial Day
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