Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial day.  I used to say that it should be a day prone to more solemn weather.  It is an odd combination -- cookouts and pools opening and beach traffic on the one hand and solemn commemorations of the million or so people who died in our nation's wars (good, bad, stupid and essential) on the other.  Perhaps it is appropriate -- liberty and citizenship have their duties, but enjoying life with one's family is a great blessing in itself, and one that we have many people to thank for.*

Being a civil war buff, this memorial I'll call to mind the sacrifice of Americans in the Civil War, those who died to reunite our country and in so doing gave it 'A New Birth of Freedom,' even if that freedom was delayed for another 100 more years, and remains imperfect.

In particular I remember the African American soldiers and sailors of the US army and navy who served, all 180,000 them, and those who died.  For them serving in the army was not so much a patriotic duty as a revolutionary statement that they were Americans, that they were men.   They were winning freedom for themselves and their people and, in so doing, for the rest of us as well**; they did not preserve freedom, as many other did in other wars, they redefined it and extended it.

20 years after thousands of black men died keeping this country together, our nation pushed African Americans out of citizenship, sometimes out of their homes, and killed them more frequently than we can now comprehend.  After years of civil rights struggles and some genuine progress, the least we can do is remember them.


EDIT:  In this vein, my interlocutor came across this awesome song from 1864 while scouring the internet for old music:
The Marching Song of the First Arkansas

It's sung to the tune of "John Brown's Body," with the familiar 'Glory!  Glory! Hallelujah!" chorus.

Some choice verses:
Oh, we're the bully soldiers of the “First of Arkansas,”
We are fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law,
We can hit a Rebel further than a white man ever saw,
As we go marching on. (Chorus)
2. See, there above the center, where the flag is waving bright,
We are going out of slavery; we're bound for freedom's light;
We mean to show Jeff Davis how the Africans can fight,
As we go marching on! (Chorus)

*D-Day didn't happen so that we could surrender to the grammar Nazis, either.  Hence the preposition at the end of the sentence.  Damn Latinate snobbery.

**As Grant said of the poor whites of the south "they too needed emancipation."

Monday, May 21, 2012

One year and Six

A year ago my spouse and I got married.  5 years before that, almost to the day, we started dating. I always liked the conincidence of the anniversaries -- having them together like that serves, in my mind,to make them seem more contiguous, as though getting married was another step in the relationship we already had, not something new.

I  felt that way before the wedding and looking back on it, a year later, I was right.  I suspect its the typical experience of people my age, but moving in together was a bigger change than marriage was, in and of itself (partially because we moved in together with an intention of marrying soon if things worked out).  I still count from when we started dating -- not when we got married, so for me the clock stands at 6 years, not 1; to do otherwise seems to disrespect what went before.  Maybe in 10 years I'll only mark our years of marriage.  For now, I'll have two anniversaries, one day apart.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Violence and the Divided American Left

A handful of rather dim anarchists apparently tried to blow up a bridge near Cleaveland.  Thankfully they failed, not that they were likely to succeed.

This headline makes me think of something I've been thinking about for some time -- the huge divide in the American left between Anarchist radicals (like those accused in this case) and everyone else.  It is a divide that encompasses the difference between violent rioting (or even terrorism) and non-violence, but it goes much deeper, into the fundamentals of the ideology.

Put simply, there is no 'American Left' but a mish-mashed collection of the 'Progressives' (those to the left of Obama, lets say) and the 'Revolutionaries', who are mostly anarchists of some stripe.  The 'Progressives' believe what most liberal  democrats do, just more so.  They want single-payer healthcare, strong environmental protections, more equality for women and minorities (via non-discrimination enforcement and other means) and that sort of thing.  If you were to turn the Democratic party's platform up to 10, you'd get at what they believe.  The Revolutionaries, on the other hand, want to dismantle capitalism and the American system of government.  They don't want single-payer healthcare or other governmental programs, but either a collection of anarcho-syndicalist collectives or primitive tribes.  Not surprisingly, the progressives generally prefer  the electoral process and peaceful protest and the revolutionaries are more willing to embrace violence.  The violent ones seem to be a fairly small minority of the Revolutionary Left in America, but in the end the only difference between a nonviolent anarchist and a violent one is which one is holding the molotov cocktail (this is, needless to say, a big difference); theirs is only a disagreement about tactics.  Progressives, on the other hand, disagree with revolutionaries about just about everything.