There is absolutely no doubt that the price of the freedoms we have in the U.S. were/are not cheap – far too much blood has been shed in this regard. I don’t wait for this once a year memorializing to occur as one day, much like celebrating Hallmark Holidays, is never ever enough. Each day I am thankful for something I have which I know others in most parts of the world lack – indoor plumbing, fresh water piped to the tap in my home, the ability to blog and speak my mind without reprisals in the middle of the night leading to jail or torture or death, the right to a K-12 education, the right to pray to my god(s) and not have to explain my beliefs, the right to question when my government does something ridiculously stupid (and the right to protest) – the list goes on. Each and every day I live a memorial to all the men and women who have given their lives or incurred an injury so I may reach this day. It is up to me to make this day productive and good and respectful of all I have been given.
While I have never done miliatry service, my father served in Japan for the Vietnam War. I know just enough of what he saw to know I could not survive the military – I am not emotionally geared up for it. I did serve in the Peace Corps and spent 48 hours in a war zone. The day I saw a news reporter run out with a vest over his flak jacket and the vest was clearly marked with his blood type and nationality, I understood everything I needed to about a war zone. I have heard hand grenades, bombs and have seen the dead. You don’t need but 48 hours to completely understand war is hell. For me, I had a U.S. Passport and was able to get from Namibia to Botswana. My exodus barely got 15 seconds on CNN (thankfully my parents did not need to bear witness to anything worse). I was able to leave but the memories have never left.
I have taught in war zones – Compton, CA, Oakland (62nd and Ashby area), Harlem, NY and subbed in various parts of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland and although I heard gunshots, I was sufficiently startled to take action where it was necessary.
Yesterday I was working for the Census Bureau in Oakland, CA – an area known as the third most difficult place in the U.S. to obtain census data, for a litany of reasons. Seeing a sub machine gun on a man would have little to no effect on me having been to third world countries and living with that sight every time you leave the village. It is a normal view of the world which is not the western civilized world. Apparently gun shots are not something I am familiar enough with that when a drive by occured while I was collecting data, the kids on the street had to tell me to duck. I thought it was a kid with a pop gun playing around…….I hope I can always say that the sound of gunfire is not something I recognize, that I don’t hear it or know it so often I know to hit the ground. If for this, and only this, then Memorial Day has provided me with yet another thing to be thankful for – not knowing on a regular basis the sounds of war.
While I do not know the regular sound of gunshots, I only live 5 miles from a place which apparently knows it all to well. For this I do not believe military action is the answer, rather education. Education in the form of helping people be able to have self efficacy, self direction and a sense of self in a place where fear is most often the emotion. America still retains the possibility of not exploding into a middle east war, not becoming feuding villages with a bitter hatred of one another for slight differences. America retains the possibility of being a better model to the world of what works – but first we must make it work here.
While I memorialize, I think of what things in my community need ‘doing’, how I can help and what efforts must come from me so the sound of gunfire is only heard in far, faraway places and only heard when absolutely necessary. To know the difference is a particularly special reason to be thankful for all those who have laid down their bodies and forever changed the lives of their families and friends to make my and our world better.