Monday, May 28, 2012
Biden on Memorial Day [UPDATED]
There appears to have been very little coverage of a speech given by Vice-President Joseph Biden a couple of days ago. The only clip I could find for a while was from The Rachel Maddow Show and is embedded below. [UPDATE: Thanks to Robert Grady in Brooklyn, there is now a link to the complete speech below the Maddow clip.]
Politicians have to make speeches on Memorial Day, and some of them have to do it year after year. The speeches usually hit familiar themes and use similar rhetorical flourishes, in a difficult balancing act between honoring and remembering a certain spirit of service and sacrifice, made poignant in the loss of life, without crossing the line into celebration of war and violence.
The people giving these speeches are often the ones responsible for sending other people's children into war, after all.
Joe Biden's speech this week was very different. It was unusually personal, raw, un-rhetorical, and demonstrated a terrible understanding of something I hope never to understand well.
I was going to attempt a post about honoring the sincere spirit of service that leads many people to enter the service. There is an almost heartbreaking fidelity to serving one's government that spears in me in the side, to tell you the truth. It seems to me that politicians send these faithful souls to fight and die for cold strategic purposes, often sold to the public with lies and manipulation, not for freedom but for empire; and then they are the ones who have the honor of memorializing the dead.
The spirit of service leaves me in awe, and it pains me to see those lives misused.
I was going to write about that. But I saw Joe Biden's speech and it stopped me. Here is the sitting Vice-President of the United States, and instead of giving the speech we all would have expected, he gave an unusually unpolished and personal talk about loss.
I will now give the rest of this post to Joe. I wish Democrats spoke like this more often.