Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

by Michael Dorf

On this Memorial Day, I remember and honor those who gave their lives in the service of our country. I'm taking the day off from blogging. If you're looking for something to read, I suggest this DoL "classic" from Memorial Day 2011. Re-reading it, I was struck by both how little has changed and how much has changed. We are still trying to extricate ourselves from largely counterproductive wars in the Middle East without leaving behind a still-worse situation. But whereas the contradictions in the Obama policy were mostly a product of conflicting sensible goals, the contradictions in the Trump approach (which hardly rises to the level of "policy") are, in addition, the nearly random product of Trump's ignorance and massive but fragile ego.


Unknown said...

So patriotic

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Shag from Brookline said...

My Memorial Day memories growing up in the Boston area in the 1930s and 1940s were of visits with my parents to cemeteries to graves of countrymen of my immigrant parents, cleaning up grave sites, planting flowers, saying prayers, watching the sadness in my parent's eyes. We didn't have a car and relied upon public transportation. The elders from the old country had been dying. WW II did not change this for my family. But as time went on, I began to notice American flags at graves of some who had served in WW II, the "just war." Shortly after starting college in 1949, the Korean Conflict broke out. I was secure with a deferment so that I finished law school in 1954 by which time the Korean Conflict was over, and I served in the US Army as a draftee for two years before getting started full time developing my law practice. When Vietnam went beyond Ike's limited involvement, I could sense unease. I had by then satisfied my military reserve obligations and continued with my growing law practice, got married, producing four children. College campuses were being challenged. The 1968 presidential campaign was engulfed with the Vietnam War. President Nixon did not come up with a solution and then there was Watergate. Vietnam ended shortly after President Ford replaced Nixon.

I'm not going to list America's wars since supposedly the lessons of Vietnam were learned. I read the NYTimes OpEd today by Kens Burns and his co-produceer of a new documentary on Vietnam. I recently read an article about Lt. Gen. McMasters' defense of the Trump Administration on certain security breaches by Pres. Trump, learning of his authorship of a book on the errors of Vietnam that had won him praise. Tom Ricks was critical of McMasters' defenses of Trump. The situation in the Greater Middle East continues to roil America's foreign policy. The Russia/Trump campaign connections continue to be investigated. There is talk of impeachment. Are we going to send more troops to Afghanistan? Syria? Yemen? Elsewhere?

At 86, I'm still an optimist. What's the alternative? Might a Trumpgate outdo Watergate? Have we recovered from Watergate some 40+ years later? Have we really recovered from Vietnam? Can American democracy survive? Memorial Day today brings back a lot of memories, many of them sad, mourning those who had passed on. My immigrant parents were survivors, benefitting from coming to America, making my path in life easier, even with the Great Depression. I am a survivor. We're all survivors. We have to make our voices heard for America's democracy to survive. Looking back at the events in my lifetime, we can survive. That's why I'm still an optimist.

Michael C. Dorf said...

Shag: Thanks for the personal reminiscence and for your contributions generally. As it happens, my father is also 86. One thing that Memorial Day brings up for me is the generational difference in military service. My great-uncle served in the US Army in WW II, the Battle of the Bulge. My uncle was in the US Army during the Korean War. My generation was just a bit too young for Vietnam and although I had to register for the draft, there has not been a draft since President Carter reinstated registration. I have a second cousin who flew jets in the Air Force, a childhood friend who served in Desert Storm, and from time to time I have military veterans in my classes, but by contrast with past generations--and despite the fact that the US has been at war in the Middle East for the better part of two decades--most civilian professionals have little direct contact with the military. I am sure this affects our discussions of public policy in myriad ways.

Brad said...

I think Frederick Douglass' 1871 Decoration Day is required reading.


Joe said...

I appreciate the comments and Shag's continual online biographical writings.

Shag from Brookline said...

Mike, Over the years at lunch, usually the longer ones, with friends, clients, fellow attorney, when conversations might be running low, I would bring up the subject of presidents during our lifetimes, pointing out that Herbert Hoover was President when I was born. Of course I had no memory of Hoover during my infancey, but learned a lot later on. But I did have distince memories of FDR as my family adored him. (There was a clock on our mantle featuring at the top the bronzed head of FDR and on each side smaller bronzed heads of two key members of his administration.) I would relate my views of presidents and companions would relate theirs. As time went on, there were more and more presidents to discuss at these lunches. Sometimes views would change as more information about these presidents had surfaced. It's sort of like views of the Founding Fathers, except that we were witnesses in real time.

Mike, since you Dad is my age, I'm wondering if he has had similar discussions with family, friends, and especially you. With the Internet there is more and more information, much of which was not as readily available to me and my lunch groups over the years. My children had more educational advantages that did I, which of course is in line with progress. (Where would we be without the progressive movement over the years?) Yes, I have biases. But Trump as President has changed the direction of the presidency. So perhaps my lunch discussions should focus on what may come post-Trump. Legal academics are addressing how we get to post-Trump. May I survive to live that.