Memorial Day by a Vietnam War veteran / by Camillo Mac Bica

Image credit: Pressenza New York

Originally published in Pressenza, New York, May 28, 2023

Perhaps some may find what I will argue below as disrespectful, especially coming from a veteran who participated and lost comrades in the American War in Vietnam. But it must be said. How Memorial Day is currently observed does not, in my view, fulfill its intended purpose—that is, as a day of remembrance, reflection, and appreciation for the sacrifices of those who fought and died in this nation’s all too numerous wars.

With its focus on picnics, barbecues, and sales at the mall, Memorial Day has become primarily a celebration of the unofficial start of summer and a festival of consumerism and greed. Perhaps most regrettably, it is an expression of faux patriotism that further exploits the sacrifices of the slain and the grief of their family members and friends to encourage militarism and perpetuate a mythology that misrepresents as heroism and nobility the savagery and insanity of war, in many, if not most cases, unnecessary and immoral war. In reality, Memorial Day has significance and meaning primarily for those relatively few  who experienced war themselves or suffered the loss of friends and family members.

If you wish someone a happy Memorial Day, you fail to understand its true meaning.

March of Folly

Between the barbecues and trips to the mall, celebrants may allege to express their appreciation and gratitude by attending a “remembrance event” and applauding enthusiastically as a high school band, a local scout troop, and a contingent of aging veterans in ill-fitting military uniforms, march by in a parade of their creation before retreating to their local American Legion Post for an afternoon of drinking and commiserating about their beloved comrades whose suffering and deaths accomplished nothing.

Many march to remember, others to forget.
But for those who truly know war
and suffer its consequences,
no ceremony or parade is necessary
as the memories,
the images of war,
and the faces of our comrades wasted in battle
visit us each night in our dreams.

Nor do ceremonies and parades
help us to put to rest
the turmoil of a life interrupted
and devastated by war,
or to forget the killing and the dying.

Memorial Day ceremonies and parades accomplish nothing,
save to allow those who make war easily
or distance themselves from its insanity and horror
to feign support and appreciation
and to relieve their collective guilt
for immoral war and crimes against humanity.

Nor do ceremonies and parades
educate, inform, or lessen the burden of loss.
Rather they celebrate and perpetuate
the myth of honor and glory,
and “The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

I shall march no more.

If you thank a veteran for her “service” in war you fail to understand what living with the experience entails.

Air Shows: Celebrating the Military’s High-Tech Weaponry of Death and Destruction

For those whose Memorial Day observance includes attending an airshow extravaganza, celebrants experience what is, for all intents and purposes, a mobile military circus and amusement arcade. In addition to “enjoying” the thrills and excitement of precision aerial acrobatics and simulated bombing runs performed by the U. S. Airforce’s “Thunderbirds” or the Navy’s “Blue Angels,” attendees, some as young as ten years old, need only enter their contact information into the military database to receive an array of propaganda, recruitment material, and many sought-after souvenirs – personalized dog tags, T-shirts, hats, footballs, etc. To excite even greater interest, passersby are invited to operate remote control robotic devices through a “battlefield” obstacle course, “pilot” an Apache helicopter flight simulator, participate in a fully immersive, adrenaline-pumping, and highly realistic, virtual “Humvee mission experience” in which they engage “insurgents” and kill them.

Sadly, what goes unnoticed is the insidiousness of these Memorial Day activities and the mythology it perpetuates. First, celebrants and their children are conditioned to view war and military service as entertainment, desensitizing them to killing and dying, and encouraging their support and involvement, with the eager recruiters always close at hand. Second, misrepresenting war as honorable and heroic encourages the next generation of cannon fodder to contemplate enlisting in military “service”. Third, memorializing those injured and killed in war makes honest and critical conversations about American foreign policy less likely, eliciting instead enthusiastic support for sending our military to faraway battlefields to “quell” what in many cases are manufactured crises. Fourth, by affording hero status to members of the military and veterans, it provides an “illusory refuge” of sorts, whereby veterans may avoid facing the reality and the trauma of their experiences in war, a task that is crucial if they are to rehabilitate and achieve some semblance of normalcy in their lives. Finally, faux gratitude and support mask the reality of the scandalous way in which this nation ignores the needs of its returning warriors and veterans. Tens of thousands of American soldiers go untreated or undertreated for the injuries they have sustained in combat, including Traumatic Brain Injury (the “signature wound” of Iraq and Afghanistan), Post Traumatic Stress, and Moral Injury, all devastating and disabling injuries that often require lifelong care. Since 9/11, the number of veterans and active-duty military dying from suicide is 4 times higher than the number of those killed in combat.


Tragically, we have been conditioned to ignore what we have become. We live in a culture where violent video games have replaced Mr. Rogers as entertainment for our children; where the youngest and most impressionable among us cyber-kill virtual human beings for amusement, to occupy their time, and as a means to prepare them to become weapons in a perpetual war that goes unquestioned; where violence has replaced diplomacy; where torture is condoned; where truth-telling (“whistleblowing”) is a crime warranting imprisonment and solitary confinement; where murder is celebrated as a positive achievement of leadership; where drones summarily execute human beings without trial, accusation, and with little outrage; and where the adoration of the weapons and technology of killing and destruction is “guaranteed” by the 2nd Amendment and to honor those wasted in war. We have lost our moral compass and have become a culture of hate, greed, and violence—killing our own as we kill others.

It is time, long past time, that we reject this mythology and the continued exploitation and commercialization of the memory of those sacrificed in war and the suffering of their families to enhance militarism, consumerism, and profit. Instead, we must acknowledge and grieve the waste of ALL human life, at least, (perhaps of ALL living entities), not with feigned expressions of patriotism, gratitude, and appreciation, but by renewing our commitment to peace, by educating the public about the realities of war, by bringing our troops home immediately from the 750 military bases it occupies in over 80 countries around the world, and by ensuring that they receive adequate and effective treatment for their physical, emotional, psychological and moral well-being upon their return.

Camillo Mac Bica, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy and ethics at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His philosophical focus is in Applied Ethics, particularly the relationship between war, morality, and healing. Dr. Bica is a former United States Marine Corps Officer and veteran of the Vietnam War. He is a long time activist for peace and justice, a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Coordinator of the Long Island Chapter of Veterans for Peace. In addition to the three books published thus far in his War Legacy Series, Dr. Bica’s writings have appeared in numerous philosophical journals and online alternative news sites.

Dispelling myths about for-profit health care / Pat Armstrong and Hugh Armstrong

Originally published in Canadian Dimension on February 7, 2023

An old friend of ours recently confessed to using a private clinic for her cataract surgery. She said that, while she felt guilty, she nonetheless received wonderful care and paid with her health card. When we asked the name of the clinic, she said the Kensington Eye Institute (located on Toronto’s College Street). It is indeed a private clinic that provides vision surgeries for cases considered non-complicated. It has justly received a good reputation. But a critical piece was missing from the ‘private’ label. Kensington is a non-profit, community-based eye surgery centre.

It is this essential distinction that is too often missing from current debates about Canada’s health care crisis, even among those who are usually on top of the issues (including our friend). Indeed, the term ‘private’ is often used to purposely hide distinctions (and consequences), with proponents arguing that our health care system is already mainly private. All those hospitals named after saints are not public in the sense that they are not owned by the government. But they are public because of the fact that they are responsible to the public and, in Ontario, fall under the Public Hospitals Act. Their books and board meetings are public. They report publicly. They do not seek a profit nor are they allowed to earn a profit on care.

When we argue that the primary objective of for-profit care is profit, this is not an ideological argument, as Premier Doug Ford insists. Indeed, it is factual. Businesses that do not make a profit go out of business. Moreover, the primary responsibility of for-profit companies is to their shareholders, not the public. So it is often hard to tell where the profits are coming from and what this means in terms of care and care work.

Take the case of for-profit long-term care homes. We know they make a profit; we know they have a pattern of fewer staff, lower pay, more bed sores and more transfers to hospitals. This reveals some sources of profit, but doesn’t provide a full picture. There is indeed gold in the golden years, but too often not for those needing or working in care.

Ford likes to repeat the line that people will pay for standalone services offered by the for-profit clinics he’s granting a larger role in health delivery with their health card and not their credit card. Not to worry, he says, there will still be access to care without fees. But he fails to tell us what the sources of profits will be. There has been talk about ‘upselling’ services that you may or may not need: special lenses for those cataracts, to take just one example. However, there are some indications that the government will also pay more for services in these clinics than in hospitals, meaning that we may pay for the profits through our tax dollars.

When questions are raised about accountability, the answer has been unspecified regulations. It is a rather ironic answer from a government dedicated to removing ‘red tape.’ Some regulations are obviously necessary but many of these will undoubtedly be required, and at more cost to public funds if they are to be enforced. Effective regulations to prevent the poaching of doctors, nurses, and technologists from public hospitals to new ‘independent’ clinics with shorter hours will be very hard to implement.

Our research on scandals about long-term care homes in various countries shows both that the scandals are more likely to arise in for-profit homes and that in North America especially they are more likely to result in more, but not necessarily more effective, regulation. Unlike in Sweden and Norway where governments cancel their contracts with for-profit owners when scandals are exposed in the media, North American governments choose to regulate. In the US we are repeatedly told that care homes are more regulated than the nuclear industry, but regulation too often mean workers spend scarce care time on filling out forms with little visible improvement in the delivery of care.

A case can be made for specialized clinics. They can make sense in a number of areas such as cataract surgeries. But as doctors’ organizations in Ontario have argued, they make the most sense when they are connected to hospitals so that resources can be shared and complications easily transferred for more advanced care. They also make sense when they are not searching for profit but rather focused on quality care, with oversight from hospitals. And when they are publicly funded, they are publicly accountable, with open board meetings and minutes and enforced regulations about quality care and working conditions. What doesn’t make sense is spending public money on profit. Premier Ford has not even offered a case supporting for-profit care, only for independent clinics.

It is not enough to declare that, given the current crises in health care, the status quo will not do and thus we need to turn to the for-profit sector. Changes that are proposed need to be backed up with evidence-informed arguments. Meanwhile, the evidence indicates that for-profit delivery is less efficient, not more. Experiences ranging from dismal overall health outcomes in the US, to the dismantling and thus fragmenting of the NHS in the UK, to longer wait times for many following the move to for-profit cataract eye surgery in Alberta all make clear.

The crises in health care brought about by years of austerity faced with a pandemic have created the opportunity to build back better. However, it also created the opportunity for those searching for profit in all corners of care, from dental offices to home care, telehealth, colonoscopies, and vaccinations. We are at a critical point in our health care system. Now more than ever we have to make the distinction between private and profit clear. If our friend didn’t see the differences, clearly we have a lot of work to do.

Pat Armstrong is a Canadian sociologist and Distinguished Research Professor at York University. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Hugh Armstrong is a Distinguished Research Professor and Professor Emeritus of Social Work and Political Economy at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. Dr. Armstrong’s major research interests include long-term care, the political economy of health care, unions and public policy, the organization of work and family and household structures.