To Our Honored Dead

A Memorial Day Observance

My feelings about holidays that commemorate and accept war as a historical inevitability are complicated.  I realize that millions have sacrificed their lives in acts of service to the nation.  That’s a deeply honorable choice, worthy of great respect.  However, wars aren’t really winnable, any more than executing murderers prevents murder.  Military conflicts are a tragic leftover of our slow cultural evolution, a technologically amplified version of behaviors other animals express when establishing territory and group hierarchy.

Norman McLaren, one of the finest directors of experimental short films who ever lived, put it more poetically than I can in words.  Here’s his 1952 film “Neighbours”.


Filed under Cinema, Ethics and Morality, symbolism

4 responses to “To Our Honored Dead

  1. I share your conflicted feelings. I honor warriors but have little faith in war. Great film!

    • At first I tried writing about the civil religion we have in America, where the flag becomes an icon of worship, but it read back as too unkind. I thought about how my father’s psychological trauma from WWII was a vital part of my own education as a pacifist, but I couldn’t explain it properly. In the end I surrendered to McLaren’s superior way of putting the lesson into a simple parable. It is a great film. Thanks, Galen.

  2. I also share your feelings about this. I am totally against any form of conflict, but have so much empathy for the people who serve in the armed forces. Largely all wars are a loosing battle and so many lives are lost. I do feel as though this post is a fitting observation of Memorial Day, I’m sure the same feelings resonate with many other people.

    • Thanks, Anna. I hope others feel the same confusion. Perhaps they will think twice about fighting. Sorry for the slow reply. We are preparing Spice for her next evaluation, and I haven’t been online.

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