Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fatal and Tragic Consequences

On an exquisitely beautiful Memorial Day, we walked from San Francisco's Civic Center to Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge.

While strolling along the newly reclaimed shoreline of the old Army Presidio, a 21-gun salute rang out with many puffs of smoke, celebrating and/or mourning Americans who have died in combat.

Though I don't harbor any particular animus against individuals in the United States military, having known so many of them personally over the decades, I still can't get too mournful about combat deaths on Memorial Day.

The main reason is that there hasn't been a single honorable or truly defensive military action taken by the U.S. government since my birth in 1954.

Korea was an awful conflict that still divides one of the oldest cultures in the world. The Vietnam invasion was overpoweringly evil and so is the current invasion of Iraq. How about the tiny island of Grenada and its "rescue" of medical students who didn't feel they were in any danger? Or the invasion of Panama which killed hundreds of people while trying to arrest George Bush Senior's drug-partner-in-crime Manuel Noriega?

It hasn't been a pretty picture, with our military consistently being the bad guys since the end of World War II, so going through the motions of heroic remembrance strikes me as bizarre and empty.

We continued by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on foot, which has always been a bit terrifying because of the heavy automobile traffic, the wild winds and the ghosts of the dead that hang about.

There is a move afoot to spend millions of dollars on yet another study to build a suicide barrier so people don't jump off the side of the bridge with quite such frequency.

For $100, I will solve the problem. Heck, let's give this advice for free. Most of the bridge has an underhang below the low-lying guard rail which makes it more difficult to just climb over and jump freely into the bay. However, there are about a half dozen cute little "vista" balconies that jut out over the underhang (see the picture above) and fairly beckon the unstable to end it all spectacularly.

Get rid of the "balconies" and the suicides should be cut down immediately. And for my late friend David Paige, who went over the bridge a couple of years ago, I hope you are finally at peace.


Delphine said...

I am sorry for your friend.

I completely agree about what happened since 1954...
But will never ever thank enough those who died to free Europe in 1944.

the Witch said...

How moving.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I don't agree with you about Memorial Day. It seems to me to be the perfect time to grieve - and we've got plenty of combat deaths and injuries to remember.

The men and women in the military are brave and dedicated. They're making great sacrifices. They're trying to do the right thing - well, most of them. Abu Ghraib and Haditha are awful - and they're the sort of brutal behavior war encourages - but they're exceptions.

Memorial Day is an intense time for me because in our lifetime there's been so much bloodshed and death and wretchedness. War is so stupid. It's such a waste.

When I mourn the war dead, I'm not saying "Go and do likewise." I'm saying, "It's very sad this war - all war - happened, is happening. People, don't continue to make the same stupid mistakes. War itself is the enemy."

On Memorial Day United for Peace and Justice held an anti-war vigil at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno. They displayed panels showing the U.S. and Iraqi war dead. I planned to take part in this but didn't manage to get there - but next year I hope I will. That's where I want to be on Memorial Day.