Oh, grow up, Charles Andrews. Courtesy photo

BURGERS, DOGS AND ZUCCHINI

On the grill, backyard or park, good friends and family, is a fine way to mark Memorial Day – as long as you know the reason behind your three day weekend. Acknowledging that would be fine too, even if only briefly. Maybe before everyone gets plastered. Just a quick reminder under the sunshine and ocean breeze and festive atmosphere – start of summer! – that this holiday came at a very dear price. Then, party on, Wayne!

The official US government definition is that it “commemorates all the women and men who have died while in military service.” Fair enough. While I ascribe to the philosophy of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s brilliant “Universal Soldier” song, I also know we are not there yet and we still need a “standing army.” I don’t want to have to learn Chinese or Russian. Whole different alphabet.

But often what you hear or read is that Memorial Day “honors our brave women and men who died fighting for our freedoms.” That was mostly true up through WWII. But mostly not, since Viet Nam. Was napalming and machine gunning Vietnamese villages protecting our country, defending our freedoms? Our government hard-sold us on that at the time (and as an idealistic but misinformed teen, I bought it), and our government even made up an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that gave us the excuse to go all out. But history has shown otherwise. Ho Chi Minh did not come very close to invading Los Angeles. He wanted an independent Viet Nam, finally free of the French – Japanese – French again – US occupiers, since 1858. 

You do have to remember that the Commies then were very bad dudes, both the Chinese and the Russians aiming for world domination. “Stop them there before we have to stop them here!” they actually told us, and like so much political hooey from time immemorial, many believed it, and sent their sons (mostly) off to be fitted for a box.

I WAS DRAFTED

After losing my student deferment in 1966, pretty much the ugliest stretch of the war, I wound up in Germany but missed being shipped to Nam by a hair, by chance, big time very unlikely chance (a story I may have to tell you someday), but if I had been shipped west rather than east, my job description (MOS) pretty much guaranteed I would not be writing these words today, and my small high school class would have had its second casualty (RIP Gary Gadzial). 

Ten years old is an agonizing age for the loss for a child, classmate, friend from a school shooting, but 20 is pretty tough too, and there were an awful lot of them. 58,220 American military died in Viet Nam, and a third of them were draftees, like me. And may we never forget the loss of a quarter million Vietnamese, from our war. They didn’t sign up for it either, but when your country is invaded (Ukraine), brave people resist with all their might, no matter how overmatched.

The point is –

NOT ALL MILITARY DIED DEFENDING OUR FREEDOMS

Perhaps their loss is even more tragic, because they thought that was what they were risking their lives for, bringing devastation to those left behind but, some would say, they died for nothing. For some gray haired politicians’ (LBJ, Putin) agenda that had nothing to do with defending our country and preserving our freedoms. I think about that often, for my fellows who bled and died in Viet Nam, for what? The same could be said for George W’s Middle Eastern fiasco.

We can’t bring them back, of course, but we can demand our government stop doing this, in our name. By different calculations, the United States has NOT been at war somewhere for only 17 years of our existence, since 1775. The USA  is no more a leader for peace in the world (unless it serves our purposes) than Santa Monica is a progressive, inclusive, compassionate city. It’s all propaganda.

Since Memorial Day was the day before yesterday, I haven’t rained on your barbecue. But as a Vietnam-Era vet, I do think about these things, at least a couple of holidays each year. Our society and government are broken now, in ways the Founding Fathers never could have imagined. But like Aaron Sorkin and a lot of others, I believe the Constitution is a masterfully written (if terribly flawed) blueprint which can still lead us to achieve the ideals it envisioned. (Maybe Santa Monica needs a Constitution, or a Master Plan…)

“AMERICA IS NOT THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD ANYMORE”

I know, that’s from a movie, “The Newsroom”(2012), but someone wrote those words that Jeff Daniels so memorably delivered: Aaron Sorkin. I still tear up every time I watch it. Sadly, even more true now than when it appeared 10 years ago.

Maybe now is the time to start working to make next Memorial Day really meaningful. There is an election, you know.

ON TURNING 75

I guess it’s no secret anymore, since I threw a big Sunday afternoon party in our very small OP condo. 75 people, exactly, showed up. Quite a few that I wanted there, weren’t, because of my lack of IT expertise with scattered lists that kept some invitations from being emailed out. Sorry.

The hit of the party was hard to determine but it might have been the birthday “cake” constructed from 75 stacked-up Randy’s chocolate long johns, from our local location. It was my mother-in-law’s idea, but she didn’t pitch in past the concept stage. That’s OK. My wife and daughter handled the architectural feat perfectly. And it didn’t exceed three stories. 

What a remarkable group of intelligent, world wise, funny people, most so very  accomplished in their fields. Three of my cousins surprised me by showing up, from AZ and WA State. Another dear friend came from NM, and we three attended the LA Phil’s “Beethoven’s 9th” Friday morning, a monumental musical achievement and an unforgettable spiritual experience. My other music gift to myself was Verdi’s “Aida” last Saturday, also magnificently executed, by our LA Opera. And that… is why I moved here.

I am forever indebted to all those who made the effort to come to the party and who brought cards and sent anecdotes. I have read every one but may not have the time to answer each one.  After all.. I’m 75, Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!  

As Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com