Quick Point: Memorial Day Whitewash

This is Serena Blaiz with a quick point from Pointing Left Media.

quick pt graphic sqIt’s Memorial Day, a holiday that may be the most blatantly mythologized and hypocritical one we have in the US. It’s ostensibly designed to honor those who died fighting our wars. In reality, today, it’s about big sales at the stores and barbecue in the back yard. If war dead are mentioned at all, it’s to (falsely) claim that they died “fighting for our freedom.” Which 99.99999% of the time is a big load of corporatist propaganda, designed to encourage the impressionable young to sign up to take a chance on becoming war dead themselves. Better to just focus on sales and BBQ than promote that, in my opinion. Col. Smedley Butler said it best: War is a racket. (more below the video)

What later became named Memorial Day began right after the end of the Civil War, that much is not in dispute, but the other details are debated. Here’s the story I like, and I got this info from African American Registry, aaregistry.org, and Wikipedia.

In mid April 1865 — and this is just days after the war was officially over, remember — former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, wanted to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. When the fighting stopped, they dug up the bodies and worked for two weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom — in this case, literally true. With the task completed, on May 1, nearly 10,000 people marched, sang and celebrated. The event was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers.

Who were the participants? About 3,000 Black school children newly enrolled in Freedmen’s schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, Black ministers, and White northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to be placed on the burial field, on land that is now a park. Years later, the celebration would come to be called the “First Decoration Day” in the North.

David W. Blight, a lauded historian who specializes in the slave era, described the day like this: “This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”

Ben Becker, in an essay entitled How Memorial Day Was Stripped of Its African-American Roots shows how this holiday was literally whitewashed.

Here’s a short excerpt from his piece:

The concept that the population must “remember the sacrifice” of U.S. service members, without a critical reflection on the wars themselves, did not emerge by accident. It came about in the Jim Crow period as the Northern and Southern ruling classes sought to reunite the country around apolitical mourning, which required erasing the “divisive” issues of slavery and Black citizenship. These issues had been at the heart of the struggles of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

To truly honor Memorial Day means putting the politics back in. It means reviving the visions of emancipation and liberation that animated the first Decoration Days. It means celebrating those who have fought for justice, while exposing the cruel manipulation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members who have been sent to fight and die in wars for conquest and empire.

We best honor the war dead by making sure there are no more such sacrifices  — on either “side” — to memorialize in the future,  by ending war forever, as an idea or practice.

Here in central Oklahoma, there’s an organization dedicated to that pursuit: The Center for Conscience in Action. Full disclosure: I work with CCA. We work to oppose war through education, resistance and empowerment. We are the state chapter of War Resisters League, and a member of World Beyond War and the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth. You can find out more at centerforconscience.org. Join us, donate, spread the word.

Don’t let “honor war dead” continue to be corrupted into “honor war.”

The Quick Point podcast is part of the Oklahoma Activist project. If you have a quick point to share via this podcast, go to oklahomaactivist.com and sign up to become a contributor.

Produced under a Creative Commons license. 2016 Oklahoma Activist.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Quick Point – Sine Die

Quick Point is a new podcast from Pointing Left that offers Oklahoma news commentary in 10 minutes or less, featuring various voices from the progressive community. Subscribe today!


Length: 00:5:32 | Subscribe RSS | Buzzsprout

It’s a very appropriate day to start this new Pointing Left Podcast series, because the Oklahoma Legislative session for 2016 has ended (called sine die) and while the session involved lots of foolhardy efforts and unfortunate decisions, two things were being loudly celebrated by me and other progressive Okies:

  1. No additional abortion restrictions!

SB1552 was vetoed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and other attempts to restrict women’s right to control their own bodies were stopped.  Thanks go to the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood — especially their lobbyist Tamya Cox — and the many women and allies who called and wrote, and walked from office to office at the Capitol. A special shoutout to my own Republican State Senator, Ervin Yen, himself a doctor, who despite being anti-abortion, voted against 1552, calling it “insane.” It’s nice to see some of those folks do have a limit to their misogyny.

In related news, just after news of 1552’s demise came down, I got an email from Julie Burkhard of Trust Women.  She said:

Greetings!

May has been a stormy month for those of us defending reproductive rights in the Midwest.

Oklahoma legislators passed and then Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed SB 1552, which sought to put doctors in handcuffs for performing abortions. Some lawmakers used the clinic we are opening early this summer in Oklahoma City as a political weapon against the governor, saying we would not have expanded access in the Sooner State if she had signed the bill.

Oh, how wrong they were.

Our plans have never hinged on politicians. Rather, they are tied directly to our mission: to open clinics that provide abortion care in underserved communities so that all women can make their own decisions about their health care.

I hope to spend the next few weeks focused on moving forward and not responding to those who do not trust women.

2. Bathroom bill — and other anti-LGBTQ bills killed

Freedom Oklahoma had an extraordinary legislative advocacy record this session — they stopped every single bill that sought to discriminate or target their community — over a dozen. Many of these were defeated early in the process, but director Troy Stevenson and his team knew better than to relax and countered a really ugly effort to punish transgenders. Kudos to Troy  and folks like Paula Sophia Schonaeur and Brittany Novotny for all they did under extreme pressure. And a very personal comment: I am so glad that the days of Lesbian and Gay organizations keeping our bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters at arms length is past us. Shows you how long I’ve been around, I guess. But now we are one queer community and have each others back! Yay!

3. Okay, three things: Today is Sally Kern’s last day to demean and torment LGBTQ people (and their allies)

In this case, at least, I support term limits! Many of us will be celebrating this milestone tonight in OKC and the world is welcome to join in spirit.

4. What the hell, 4 things!

Health care administrator and average Oklahoman Andy Moore almost single-handedly started and built an incredible movement of grassroots citizen advocacy called Let’s Fix This, bringing hundreds of first time or inexperienced citizens into the lobbying business to deal with this lazy ass, no good, morally compromised majority in the legislature and. These newly active folks didn’t get everything they wanted, but believe me, they were noticed and made a difference because things could have been even worse for public education without their work and repeated visits to the Capitol en masse. Next year they will be even stronger and a real force to be reckoned with.

5th thing — real quick — record number of first time candidates running for the OK leg to kick out the dunces who can’t or won’t do the job. Primary June 28, election day Nov. 8. Vote like it matters, because it does!

Thanks for listening. Subscribe at pointingleftmedia.com/quick-point

 


Pointing Left Podcast Lucky #13 – Paula Sophia Schonauer

paula sophia goes to dc fundraiserWith episode 13 we are lucky indeed to have a conversation with Paula Sophia Schonaeur, one of the most visible trans activists in Oklahoma, who is heading off to DC for ten weeks interning at the National Center for Transgender Equality as part of her studies to obtain a Masters in Social Work to add to her long list of service careers and accomplishments.

Special Feature

Paula Sophia Schonaeur on community policing:


Pointing Left podcast, episode 12

An interview with Christina Owen about a protest in Norman of a city-sponsored event commemorating the Oklahoma Land Run in 1889 that ignores and offends native Americans. Then a report from Andy Moore about Let’s Fix This, a new grassroots initiative created to advocate for solutions to Oklahoma’s critical political and economic problems. Finally, a few words on the status of this podcast going forward.

Continue reading


Pointing Left Podcast Episode 11 – Record number of Oklahoma educators seek political office

This is the episode for April 19, 2016. Host Serena Blaiz talks with Cathy Cummings and Sean Cummings about the effect of years of budget cuts and conservative politics on public education in Oklahoma, and their role in recruiting unprecedented numbers of candidates to run for legislative office in the 2016 elections on a pro-education platform.

pointing left podcastEpisode 11:
MP3 | RSS | Stitcher | iTunes

Length: 00:41:39

Show notes and links below the fold. Continue reading