Here in the U.S., it’s Memorial Day, a national holiday established long ago to commemorate the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Even though my own long-dead father was himself a decorated Marine Corps vet and my brother-in-law is a veteran of the Gulf War, I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a while to separate my feelings about people who served in combat from my feelings about the wars in which they served — or about war in general. About the only time I feel warlike is when I’m listening to warlike metal. I think the last war that was worth fighting (for my country) was the one in Korea, and sometimes I’m not even sure about that one.
I did finally realize what should be obvious to people smarter than me — that soldiers and sailors and airmen do not start wars or decide which wars are worth fighting. They simply do their duty, and they become maimed, suffer mental trauma, and die because of decisions made by others who put them in harm’s way. They deserve to be honored for reasons that have nothing to do with whether the causes in which they sacrifice themselves are worth their sacrifices. They deserve to be remembered and supported even when the conflicts in which they have served are insupportable.
Memorial Day should be a day not only for remembering the dead but also for remembering the living — not only people who are currently serving in the Armed Forces but also veterans. The U.S. has done a piss-poor job of supporting its military veterans. Our government is willing to spend trillions of dollars to finance wars and huge defense establishments, but what we spend to support people after they’ve served their purpose and been discharged — especially those who have been disabled during their service — is shameful.
We used to have a military draft in the U.S. It was discontinued in 1973 following the end of the Vietnam War, and since then we’ve had an all-volunteer military force. I’ve seen and heard arguments that since the abolition of the draft, people in the military have made their own choices to serve, with full knowledge of the potential consequences, as if this somehow justifies the neglect of the needs of veterans that has regularly occurred over the last 40 years. Frankly, that kind of argument makes me want to puke.
I think it’s a fiction, for example, to say that people whose tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan were repeatedly extended really knew what they were getting themselves into. And even if they did, the fact remains that people in combat units don’t pick the fights, but they sure as hell pay the price for decisions made by politicians who supposedly make those decisions on behalf of the rest of us. As individuals, they may not be any better or worse than you or me, but they’re being exposed to perils that the rest of us rarely if ever encounter, and they’re doing it because someone decided it was in our country’s best interests. Whether those decisions were wise or foolish, we should support the people whose duty is to carry them out.
I should add that, in my humble opinion, the converse isn’t true: Supporting people in the Armed Forces doesn’t mean automatically supporting the wars they may be called upon to fight. I have gotten so sick of politicians who wave the flag and use our troops as a means of rallying support for ill-conceived military adventures and who suggest that people who criticize the wars we fight are undermining military men and women whose lives are at stake. Sometimes the best way we can support our Armed Forces is to get them the fuck out of military engagements that are not worth their lives.
I know we have some active military people among the readers of this blog, stationed both in the U.S. and overseas, and it makes me happy to think that we’re providing some occasionally worthwhile distractions for people in the services. Just today, I got an e-mail from a sergeant who’s seen two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and has one more Afghan tour ahead of him. He said he had gotten into metal in part through reading about a movie called The Messenger on this site (through a review written by one of my former NCS comrades, IntoTheDarkness) and then watching the movie repeatedly and listening to its music. He wondered what song was being played in the movie during a scene when Ben Foster’s character punches a wall after learning that his sweetheart was marrying another guy (the song apparently can also be heard about 12 minutes into the film).
I haven’t seen that powerful movie in a while and couldn’t remember what music was playing at those times. I checked out a complete list of the songs from the soundtrack and only recognized two metal songs — “Drought” by Pelican (from the Australasia album) and “Profits of Doom” by Clutch (from Blast Tyrant) — but I’m not sure either of those is the correct answer. If anyone out there happens to know, please leave a comment.
Well, I guess I’ve rambled on enough about Memorial Day and what it means to me. I hate to publish anything for this site that doesn’t include some metal, but I’ve had a hard time coming up with something that felt right to me, particularly because, despite what some people seem to think, Memorial Day really isn’t about celebrating war or “patriotism” or bullshit “my country right or wrong” ideology– it’s about remembering the fallen.
Finally, I decided to stream those two songs mentioned above, plus one more called “Von”. It’s by an Icelandic band named Dynfari, and that seemed fitting since we began today’s posts with Phro’s review of music from Iceland’s Azoic. It’s also a peaceful, melancholy song, sort of like a metal version of Taps. The whole album is really good, though it’s definitely different in tone from this intro track (“atmospheric black metal” is a fair description of it). You can hear and download the whole thing at Dynfari’s Bandcamp page.
Pelican: “Drought”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/02-Drought.mp3|titles=Pelican – Drought]
Clutch: “Profits of Doom”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/02-Profits-of-Doom.mp3|titles=Clutch – Profits of Doom]
Dynfari: “Von”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Dynfari-Dynfari-01-Von.mp3|titles=Dynfari – 01 Von]
As always, feel free to leave a comment and agree with me, call me a dick, or just share any other thoughts you have about the subject matter of this post or the music.