I have just returned from my trip to Washington D.C. and had the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Memorial, along with the Korean War and WW  II Memorials. It is sobering to stand in front of those black pieces of marble etched with the names of the over 52,000 American men and women who gave up their lives  in that far away part of Southeast Asia wearing the uniform of our country. I admit to shedding tears as I recognized the 62 names of classmates who never returned to their families and friends, who never had a chance to have wives and children, careers and triumphs, the spectrum of adult experiences. I also recalled the faces of the survivors, those friends who made it back, but lacked the spirit of youth in their eyes, as well as the damaged bodies and psyches I encountered during my rotations at the VA hospital during my medical school training. Anyone who has been involved in a war knows that there is no glory involved, only fear, suffering, deprivation and unimaginable misery. Some will argue, perhaps rightfully so, that no war is ever justified. To me, at least, the only possible justification exists when our personal freedoms are threatened.

            I was born in a time when freedom was elusive to absent in a large part of our globe, in a country where a knock on the door or the unexpected ringing of the phone brought terror based on very justified fears, and the only freedom one dared dream about was being allowed to exist in obscurity by staying under the radar of the ever watchful secret police and their countless informants, some of whom could have been, or in fact were, people you knew well. To those who grew up in the luxury of free society, these feelings are beyond the boundaries of experience, and cannot be truly imagined, much less viscerally acknowledged. To those who lived through them, they can never be forgotten.

            Perhaps the most frightening aspect to those of us who were not always blessed with the freedoms the rest of us take as our birthright is the knowledge of how easily and rapidly freedom can be lost. My birthplace had the traditional freedoms of a Western society throughout all my parents’ lives until shortly before the time of my birth. Throughout history, the loss of freedom has occurred as often from within as without. The desire to have power over others is a primal drive, and well recognized by the men who framed our Constitution. The system of checks and balances they designed, brilliant in its conception, can only endure as long as there exists a populace dedicated to the principles the document embodies.

            We are about to celebrate our Memorial Day with military planes streaking in formation across skies hazy from countless barbecues, as speeches are made and parades march under unfurled banners. For those who have served, as well as those whose family members sacrificed limb and lives, the price of our freedoms are forever etched in hearts and minds. For those brought up in a tradition of service, the memory remains that the price of freedom is dear. The paradox of freedom is that those who desire it the most must also be willing to subjugate some of their personal desires to see it achieved. 

            The world is a complex, complicated, and often frightening place. I can understand the desire to hide in the cocoon of daily life, of carpools and groceries, of work and play, and ignore the whole messy, confusing affair. Let the professionals, the politicians, the generals worry about what’s happening in the world, while we concentrate on our own turf. Unfortunately, this road, by which we abdicate responsibility to others, leads to the morass in which we are currently embroiled. The man was right – the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. So we must remain vigilant, not only of our enemies, but of those to whom we entrust our daily freedoms. We must not, can not allow our fears of the known or unknown to seduce us into turning those freedoms over to a perceived strong select few who claim to know what is good for us, and promise us security in exchange for giving up power over our own lives. Too many through history have done this. Too many suffered and died as a result of their mistake. Freedom cannot be defined by the absence of bad things – slavery, fear, subjugation. It needs to be defined by positives, by action. But what can we do, you plaintively ask? We can educate ourselves to the issue affecting our lives. We can educate our children so they understand the history of this great nation, both the good and the bad. We can be willing to serve to sustain the causes in which we believe, and at the same time allow for, and demand intelligent discourse from those whose belief is different than our own, as well as from those we have chosen to lead us. We can attempt to instill in our children the values and ideals on which all free societies are founded, and which our Constitution helped codify. We can teach them that there is a difference between patriotism and nationalism, that loving your country is not the same as blind acceptance or support of any governmental policy. We can resist the temptation to demonize those who oppose us while we are struggling to hold true to the core principles of our beliefs. We can and should encourage, demand that everyone give of themselves in the form of some national service for a period of their life. It’s the only way we can be exposed in a one on one setting to those whose ideas, opinions and backgrounds are different than our own. We must demand accountability not only from our leadership, but also from the press and the media, not to sink to the lowest denominator, but to help raise the level of discourse in all walks of life from mud slinging to enlightening.  We must teach and practice respect for the persons and property of our citizens, along with this planet, and those with whom we share it. And finally, we must never forget those men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us along with those who have served in the past, or are now serving in the military of our country. Honor, courage, sacrifice may sound like outmoded words in this jaded age of ours, but it’s up to us to make them relevant again. We need to ensure that those we place in positions of power are not allowed to waste these precious young lives by committing them to causes in which there is no winnable military objective and no national consensus that military intervention is the right path to pursue. 



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15 Responses to MEMORIAL DAY

  1. redvelvet says:

    For the better I hope 🙂 (your altered image of me)
    Intuative post… I\’ve never studied politics that much, but as I\’ve grown older I\’ve come to wish I knew more… Individual problems are sometimes fixable… but in regards to fixing the world… finding where to begin might be the greatest problem of all…

  2. Marge says:

    What a powerful offering, Jorge; thank you.
    You have said it all, and poignantly so.
    I wish us all peace.
    As ever,

  3. Stephen Craig says:

    Jorge,  This is a great post!  Thank you for your visit to the Painting Studio.  As ever be well.  Stephen Craig Rowe

  4. Suzalita says:

    I agree with you that DC over Memorial day is very sobering – a few years ago I was there with my son and my brother – he gave my brother a poppy after we walked thru the Vietnam memorial – it was so innocent and sweet – he just wanted to say thanks to my brother, a veteran.  The vietnam memorial is so moving – this particular day was a ride across DC with 100 thousand Vietnam Veteran Bikers – it had an impact on us…

  5. Vonnie says:

    Jorge, what a fantastic and riviting entry. Very well said, my friend. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂 You are such a good man. ((hugs)). x

  6. Holy says:

    Powerful, poignant and pertinent, my friend. I confess, the light in my hope lantern is flickering and is in sad need of a spark more lasting and brilliant than a 4th of July sparkler – I can do little on days like Memorial or Remembrance Day but wonder if such ceremonies are now becoming more like failed and hollow rituals. Even heart-stirring rhetoric such as yours leaves me shaking my head wondering, who really hears your cry in the dark?   The masses who equate freedom with prolific consumer choice, preferrably name brand, please?  Or more to the point, those who subscribe to the pragmatics of hedonism that demand first to know: "what\’s in it for me" before they would dare put down their remote, Big Mac, or Hollywood gossip magazine?Liberty and freedom are the epitome of symbols (as in, something that stands for something else) – they have come to embody the wrong things in this nation – Liberty is but a brand name of a Jeep and freedom has come to mean sticking it to the man.Yet sadly, those who sacrificed all to uphold these bastardized constructs upon which the nation was founded, died with the last gasp of Truth on their lips.  If history would and could but listen to them….they\’d hear that truth, albeit told "slant" (for truth "in circuit lies").  So we are left with memory – that ever elusive cultural companion who has long since been rebooted and reprogrammed.This quote expresses my bleek sentiments tonight best…."if the populace of the future is made up mostly of ignorant, ahistorical, consumer drones with no concept of how a civilization is made possible and what it takes in order to maintain the precious gains of civlization, then aren\’t we looking into the abyss?"  It is, perhaps, the quintessential rhetorical question, speaking volumes more of the state of the union than we, the collective public, cares to admit.War ultimately reduces to an economic equation – as all societal games do, perhaps.  The cost is not tallied from personal perspectives, for how then could we measure and justify it?  But rather, it is viewed and weighed through the cold, clinical lens of the war effort in general.  Korea? no clear winner. Vietnam? defeat. So what then of the 52,000, 62 of whom were real to you?  Why must we reduce them to numbers and stats?….it is the cruelest form of synecdoche fathomable, is it not?
    Far-called, our navies melt away;On dune and headland sinks the fire:Lo, all our pomp of yesterdayIs one with Nineveh and Tyre!Judge of the Nations, spare us yet.Lest we forget—lest we forget!If memory lives liveliest at the most primordial cellular level….yikes, I fear we already have.Thank God words whisper and cry out in the dark and thread generations and centuries.  Small solace, that.

  7. Unknown says:

    Hi Jorge,
    Thank you so much for this special tribute to all the men and women who have given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy, as well as all those who have and are currently serving in our military services.  My father served two tours in Vietnam as a combat officer, even though he knew it was a lost cause after his first tour.  He went back the second time, not to save the world from communism, but to help save American lives.  He was a true leader and I’m so proud to be his daughter.  Take care.  Danele
    PS Yes, I know I’m very lucky.  

  8. Deborah says:

    Jorge, well said my friend!  Yes we must be vigilant, and yes hold those we entrust accountable.  I am glad that you enjoyed the trip which I am way over due in making.  I haven\’t seen the Viet Nam Memorial yet, the last time I was in Washington we were still fighting there and Nixon was in office.  So much I have seen in my lifetime, and what I felt was important and honorable once, has little interest and no glory for me now.  I am not cynical about the world at all though, and just wish that we didn\’t have to have borders.  We should all be able to wander this planet as we want and celebrate the diffences and well as the similarities we share as humans. 
    Blessed be,

  9. Theresa says:

    Beautiful entry Jorge…this veteran thanks you.

  10. PJ says:

    Good Afternoon Jorge,
    The photos are wonderful and the entry is beautiful. Thank you for dropping by, too. Hope this finds you well.
    Until next time..Keep Smiling.

  11. Marie says:

    I am sorry that my work keeps me from visiting my friends as often as I want to.  I miss everyone so much.  I have just read this entry and will be back to read the ones I missed during the weekend. The photos are great.  Thank you for sharing them with us.
    Hugs, Marie

  12. Fenix says:

    Hello Jorge:
    I am on holidays. I will not use internet. I will return to read your blog soon.

  13. Lisa says:

    Beautiful posting.  We\’re looking forward to the day when we also get the opportunity to visit the war memorials.  Thought provoking ideas on the difference between patriotism and nationalism … perhaps, as you\’ve poined out, because few seldom think to break it down in the first place …

  14. Bittersweet on-the-hill. says:

    Jorge –
    A very mindful and thought provoking entry.  Everyday I look at the casualties of war and those who are so brutally maimed and I wonder at the truth and purpose of this war. And now I watch at the possibilities of a cold war between the U.S. and Russia looming
    on the horizon.  It is all such a fine line and if I prayer for anything it is that we are doing the right thing. Unfortunately, I have little trust in the integrity of our current administration and I shutter at the possibility of ulterior motives. 
    Several years ago I visited the Vietnam War Memorial and remember putting my finger tips on the etched names of people I knew. It shakes you to the core when you realize that a life was lost and never lived. I wondered then and I wonder now.
    Thank you for a well written entry.    Bittersweet

  15. Charlotte says:

    Thank you for sharing your pictures and also for writing a post that should impact many.  I grew up in an area where we had several "displaced persons" come after WWII and became friends with them.  Also, the mother of a friend of mine when I was growing up, would share what it was like in Russia during the 1917 rebellion….fear, lack of food, rats, being beateng by and hiding from the soldiers, and finally their escape to the United States..  She would shake her finger at us girls and tell us that we should NEVER take our freedom forgranted.  I had already figured that out, but listening to her stories that she shared made it so real.  She would tell us how she woke up in the night from nightmares even at that late date as if it were happenng right then.. 
    Let Freedom Ring and NEVER be taken forgranted.  hugs, lottiemae PS: believe it or not, I bake the stuff occasionally but I don\’t usually eat any of it…

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