As with many American holidays, the original purpose of Memorial Day (to commemorate men and women in the U.S. military who actually got killed in service) has been hijacked by those who’d rather not think too hard about the true origins. That includes me, too.
Like an oyster paints layers of nacre around an irritant it can’t stomach, we Americans have turned Memorial Day into our own pearl by slathering the long weekend with layers of alternate observances that celebrate oil, which, ironically, has been the cause of most of the armed conflicts in which Memorial Day heroes gave their lives.
Happy Oil Appreciation Day
Think about it: over the course of the weekend, do we spend more time focused on our fallen soldiers, or centered on the Indianapolis 500 race — an event where people celebrate 33 cars getting only 2 or 3 miles per gallon for 500 miles? Even after switching to ethanol, it’s become a celebration of using thousands of gallons of corn fuel produced with oil-based fertilizers and oil-guzzling farm machinery.
Then there’s the yearly roll out of the national Click It or Ticket campaign where law enforcement agencies join forces day and night from coast-to-coast to persuade auto passengers to buckle up so that less of them get killed on the highway.
The Click It or Ticket campaign comes at the time when the typical American’s kids get out of school, and parents start their vacation by loading up an SUV, camper, or boat trailer, and setting out on a huge oil-burning splurge — ideally to one of America’s 58 National Parks or hundreds of State Parks where they can teach their offspring all about fresh air and pristine scenic wilderness. Usually, they can also teach their children how to complain about the high price of gasoline, which brings me to the next way oil is appreciated on Memorial Day…
Perhaps most of all, Memorial Day is celebrated by Exxon Mobil Corporation, British Petroleum Corporation, Chevron Corporation, and Saudi Aramco. Year after year, these companies spike gas prices on Memorial Day to take advantage of Americans who refuse to negotiate their traditional celebration of oil. And year after year these corporations have their own celebrations centered around record second-quarter oil profits.
Celebrating Casualties of Wars for Oil
Despite our education based on nationalistic textbooks and popular rumors, the powerful and wealthy elite of the world do not launch wars because of political assassinations, and rarely are they actually suprised by mythic surprise invasions. Wars, in fact, are almost entirely faught over natural resources, and since the discovery of black gold, if you dig beneath the rhetoric of freedom and democracy, you’ll often disclose greed for oil as a root cause of conflict.
Take World War I, for instance. For almost a hundred years now, U.S. textbooks have advertised that WWI started because of the June 28, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But what about the strategic importance of the Baghdad Railway? At a time when Great Britain’s oil-based military ruled the planet, Germany began constructing a railway through — you might have guessed it — oil-rich Iraq. Via this railway, Germany could have established it’s own port on the Persian Gulf and bypassed the British-controlled Suez Canal. Lo and behold, one of the first battles of the war involved British troops attempting to capture Basra, Iraq in November, 1914.
Likewise, U.S. involvement in World War II only began after the U.S. cut off 95% of Japan’s access to oil.
It’s no coincidence that today’s wars against non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction and al Qaeda terrorists are all fought “over there” where there’s a lot of oil and not “over here” where there isn’t much oil anymore.
Have a Poignant Memorial Day!
In light of these thoughts, I have mixed feelings when somebody wishes me “Happy Memorial Day!” Burhanistan has expressed my Memorial Day feelings better than I can articulate them:
If people want to really celebrate properly, there would be parade floats with artful sculptures made out of replicas of shredded limbs, burning villages (cue the smoke machine), filthy VA hospital wards, et cetera. These empty heroes’ marches and Air National Guard flyovers just bolster the lie.
So in this year of war, as President Bush’s golf mates must forgive him for sacrificing golf, I hope you’ll forgive me for striking “happy” from my holiday greeting. I’d suggest that, to show appreciation for all those soldiers who have died to give us oil, the rest of us who live on should, at least for this day, sacrifice using oil. But, since I also know how impossible that would be, instead I will just wish everybody a bittersweet, poignant Memorial Day.
[tags]Memorial Day, War for Oil, Indianapolis 500, oil profits, summer vacation, U.S. National Parks[/tags]