30 May, 2005


It's Memorial Day. The tune in my head is "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" (the Shane McGowan/Pogues cover), which tells the story of a young soldier from Oz, drafted, swept into the First World War I. He is shipped off to Gallipoli, where the Ottoman Turks blast the ill-prepared Australian troops into smithereens. He returns home legless. "Never knew there were worse things than dying."
So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away
Oh god (are you there yet?). And what do we celebrate? Yesterday I was listening to the radio, and the obnoxious pop-rock station told me to remember those who are "fighting for our freedom" over in Iraq. Is this always going to be true? No matter how worthless the conflict, no matter how meaningless the death, no matter how unjust our presence, will our soldiers always be fighting for our freedom?

Here is a memorial of words for those American soldiers who died in shit, feeling betrayed and alone, aware that their death could mean nothing. I remember you. I grieve for the folly that killed you.

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