A Bit of Perspective: My Response to Memorial Day Patriotism

Yesterday, I got into a very frustrating argument on a gay social-networking site on the validity of supporting war and supporting Memorial Day. Despite that I have relative and friends who have served in the American Armed Forces, I do not support war ideologically or spiritually and I am a vocal anti-war advocate, especially when it comes to celebrating memorials of war. I think that remembering and honouring the dead is fine, but there are no national holidays for remembering war victims, only people who fight in wars. 

My frustration with patriotism especially comes from this, I had many people on the website calling me names and saying I was disgusting for not respecting the dead. I have respect for the dead. I do not respect the war they fought in. I refuse to memorialize war. Patriotism goes hand-in-hand with white patriarchy and heterosexism in the United States. People who are seen as unpatriotic for their dissent are labelled traitors. Apparently I am a traitor. Despite this, I still firmly believe that peace is patriotic, and dissent is also patriotic.

One man tried to end the conversation by accusing me of “not caring about the deaths of hundreds of Chinese and Jews”. I assume this person does not know I am Jewish. It enrages me as a Jewish man when White Christocentric Americans use the Holocaust as a justification for war. The United States not only took its time when coming to the rescue of Europe’s Jewry, but it also sent back boatloads of Jewish refugees when they came seeking asylum. It is insulting to victims of the Holocaust and other genocides to use their suffering as a justification for war. Where is America’s Memorial Day for Yom ha-Shoah, where is America’s Memorial Day for the Nanking Massacre? It is also insulting to use genocide as an example to insult people with differing opinions from yourself…especially when espousing how WW2 was justified by saving the Jewish people but conveniently forgetting the slaughter of close to a million Japanese civilians in the American bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Another point that I want to emphasize is that the people calling me out, one self-described Libertarian even calling me a fool, were all White biological men. I believe that their sexual orientation is irrelevant in this case. Your sexuality or gender identity does not excuse White privilege. All these men have the privilege of occupying the upper echelons of our society especially as White men who have been to college. Education is a privilege and they used their privilege in an attempt to silence me. With this privilege comes power, and it is men like them who continue to perpetuate the interlocking systems of oppression in our society that hold women, people of colour and GLBTQ persons hostage. War and patriotism perpetuate these systems of oppression and I find it sadly ironic that these gay men continue to support them, erstwhile preventing true liberation.

(Ed. Note: I am currently reading Elizabeth Ammon’s Brave New Words: How Literature Will Save the Planet. She underlines how liberalism and academia have failed social justice. This, combined with White privilege in writing history from a White perspective and the privilege of succeeding as White people in higher education also fail social justice. I encourage you to read her book.)

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