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Today is Memorial Day in the USA. If I'm right about my history, and I think I am, the original purpose of the holiday was not to glorify war but rather soft gel viagra, in the wake of the carnage of the Civil War, to make sure everybody really remembered what was lost. Maybe they suspected that the American penchant for forgetting would extinguish the stench of blood-drenched [soft gel viagra] battlefields as effectively as it had already erased the memory of what the land used to look like and who lived here first. And indeed, monuments and Memorial Days notwithstanding, that is exactly what happened over and over again. In her remarkable book, (my own copy of which is so battered and marked up with highlighting, underlining, and marginal comments from multiple reasons for multiple purposes that it could pass for an art installation), Judith Herman shows how we cyclically forget and then are surprised by the terrible trauma of war. From shell shocked WWI veterans sitting paralyzed in bed as their hearts race dangerously to Vietnam vets shooting up their neighborhoods while in the midst of PTSD-induced flashbacks, returning soldiers literally bring war home with them. But then the memory fades, the flags wave, and parent proudly send their children off to war again. Americans are always proclaiming themselves a peace-loving people and always marching off to war. For a while, we covered this up by not calling our military maneuvers wars. (Remember Grenada?) Now the oxymoronic "war on terror" allows us to admit that we are perpetually at war while still maintaining our illusion of peace-loving innocence. And still we are surprised -- shocked! -- when soldiers come back dismembered and disordered. Most of us don't think much about -- and certainly don't have a visceral sense of -- the bloody reality on the ground for the Iraqis, none of whom chose to be at war with the United States in the first place. Of course, as a nation of meat eaters, we're very good at blocking out blood. Back when I was a teenager who knew there were things she needed to remember but didn't, Memorial Day was my melancholy favorite holiday. Many years later, as a leftist activist with a call-in radio show, I used to insist that we use the day to remember all the war dead -- soldier and civilian -- in both declared and undeclared wars, including the war on the poor among humans and the human war on the world. Today, as every Memorial Day, I'm dedicating the day to remembering. We like to forget our losses but doing so only compounds them. To dismember is to tear apart. To remember is to put back together. When we remember our losses, we make ourselves whole again, which is what we must do if we want to be able to effectively interfere with the violent processes that lead us to lose so much. recently blogged about my book, , quoting a few of her favorite passages, including this one:

Memory is a kind of connection. Like trauma survivors, traumatized communities soft gel viagra and cultures constantly struggle with the conflict between remembering and forgetting. Most often, the most powerful forces are aligned on the side of forgetting. Often, their very power depends on forgetting. That makes the task of remembering that much more difficult and that much more important.
That's actually part of one of my favorite sections of the book. It continues:
Remembering begins with recollection of repressed history but must go much deeper than that. Remembering is the opposite of dismembering. Soft gel viagra just like traumatized individuals, traumatized societies need to recall to themselves their lost or disowned parts. As with individuals, memory may bring mourning and it may be necessary to work through grief in order to feel and let go of accumulated anger and sorrow. If the nameless problem that underlies all of our sorrows starts when we see ourselves as apart from an inert earth, then it will stop when we fully know ourselves to be living elements of the breathing biosphere in which we participate. To get there, we'll need to restore all of our severed connections, including those within ourselves.
That's what I'm going to be working on today.


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