Memorial Day seems early this year, or perhaps it is just that winter seems to be hanging on and on and on. But Memorial Day is this Monday and it remains an old-school Crested Butte holiday that is steeped in small-town traditions. And just so you know, there have been plenty of Memorial Days when it has snowed in this high mountain valley.
Memorial Day Weekend in Crested Butte is a time that members of the old-timer families return to the valley to reminisce about the simpler days in Crested Butte: fewer people, smaller houses, less pavement. Their return still reinforces one of the most special qualities of this place, and that is the community: The ability of people with Crested Butte ties to respect and to connect with one another.
The day starts out light as the former soldiers and sailors gather by the Old Town Hall to prepare for the morning march to the cemetery. It becomes a bit somber as they march in formation down Elk Avenue and out to the graves north of town for a mass and remembrance of those who died in the service of their country. There is a smattering of applause from onlookers as the vets march by in formation, and the vets seem to appreciate the respect given them from their fellow citizens. The day transitions to a celebration as there is a potluck and eventual polka party that celebrates the roots of this old coal mining town.
Which brings me to Donald. He of the bone spurs seems so often to demand respect by simply being the loudest guy on the stage. His most recent bellowing—or more pointedly, the bellowing of his aides, like National Security advisor John Bolton—feels like it could lead us into the dangerous waters of actual confrontation in the Middle East. And because actions have consequences, that sort of confrontation could ultimately result in more men and women having to be remembered on Memorial Day for giving their lives in the service of this country.
Now I’ll give Donald a tip of the hat that when compared to Bolton, he seems a reasonable voice in the White House. I’m just worried that Donald will fall for the old “my missile is bigger than your missile” competition and forget he campaigned in part on not throwing the American military into stupid and endless wars far from our shores. But that is exactly the history of what Bolton has advocated for decades. Why hire that guy unless you expect him to push for such action? Bolton was a key player in the Iraq war. That sure worked out great. According to Bolton’s history available on the internet, as a college student he wanted to kick the ass of Vietnam as long as he didn’t have to go over and do it on the front lines himself. He’s a stereotypical chicken hawk pushing for war from a cushy office.
But there was Donald last weekend responding to a question about whether Washington was going to war with Tehran by saying he “hoped not.” Trump told reporters last week that he sometimes has to “temper” his senior aide’s “strong views.” He was talking about Bolton’s unquenched thirst for Iranian regime change. But he’s still Donald and of course the next day he was out there tweeting that it would be “the end” of Iran if they got in a fight with the U.S. “Never threaten the United States again!” he screamed like a 10-year-old on the playground with a bunch of buddies behind him.
My fear is that Donald gets all caught up in the bluster and follows the fellow chicken hawk down the black hole of “evidence” that Iran is gearing up for more war and we have to strike preemptively. We don’t.
Bolton’s end game would mean that the men and women who march down Elk Avenue to the cemetery will do so in greater numbers and in remembrance of more people who are more than a number on a spreadsheet. They are our friends and family members. They are our children. They are our future. They could be the young people who live in this valley and are preparing to graduate from high school.
Memorial Day in Crested Butte is always one of my favorite holidays with its small-town traditions and its nod to the history of this community. I will be out of town this year and I will miss it. Memorial Day in Crested Butte is a human holiday and it is that human element that the chicken hawks in Washington should consider before they rattle their sabers in an effort to demand false respect.
Actions have consequences. Before the president starts bellowing that he is ready to send young men and women into war (apparently 120,000 on the Bolton spreadsheet), think about the men and women all over America on Monday who put on their uniforms, head to the cemetery and pay respects to their lost comrades.