It is Memorial Day here in the States.
As holidays are wont to do, it got me thinking about the reason for the celebration. Various pictures thrown about on Facebook and Twitter kept me on the subject. Even when I wanted to retire into alcohol and grilled succulents, my mind remained on other topics: Death. Sacrifice. Service.
Anyone familiar with the genres of fantasy and science fiction will know that the authors thereof do not shy away from war. In fact, they invite it. Most of our books are set against the backdrop of some world-altering conflict. People die by the hundreds of thousands to give gravity to some plot.
Hundreds and thousands of people. Of course, in our narrative they are not people - they are characters. Not even that, actually. To refute Bob Seger, they are simply numbers.
I wonder, how many authors really think about the number of deaths they invoke a grim feeling in their world? Every now and again, I think about them. The young men who die in my imaginary wars are no different than those who die in our real ones. They feel a sense of duty, either to their nation or to the men and women around them. It keeps them on the line, on the bounce, and on the job.
I have known many soldiers. In my capacity as a martial arts instructor, I have trained many of them. Is there one defining trait I have found in all of them? No. Is there one overriding belief? No. These men and women, who risk their lives for causes both just and unjust, have been as varied as any other class of people I have ever met. Why, then, do they do it?
Perhaps I could try and answer the question, but I will not. I believe that days like to day are best spent not simply remembering - but thinking. I myself once thought of being a soldier. Ultimately, I decided not to enlist. But I have nothing but the most profound respect for those who did, and my conclusion was that the service I owed to those people was to ensure that they never risked their lives for an unjust cause. The only way I can affect that is with my solitary vote and voice. If they are sent to defend something, I mean to make damn well sure it is me they are defending, else they should not be sent.