we gave a great deal of consideration to this macabre human holiday you american persons have, on which so many of you go on and on, and wax sentimental/poetic/emotional about your many wars. we think this is terrible, and very unhealthy. it seems to hinge on some idea about what you call “patriotism”, which of course doesn’t mean anything at all, at least if you are a big capitalist corporation. but it also hinges on an idea that going to war is a sign that you are brave.
this is rank nonsense.
human persons rounded up to go to war are taking the easy way. in some situations, wars are so huge entire nations of humans mobilize, and everyone is forced to get on board with it. in other situations there are things like economics at work, which is why so many poor people go to fight, and most rich people do not. and then there are middle wars, where the entire nation is not mobilized, but there is a draft.
when you are drafted, you are summoned to appear and answer that yes, you are present and you are going to serve. in some wars people had to sign and say yes. in the vietnam war, this human person, muhammed ali, who used to be named cassius clay, was called, and he went down there to the place he was supposed to answer at, and he refused to answer.
think about that for a moment. he stood in a room full of other people who were saying yes. other male human persons, who think they are brave by saying yes. and his name was called, and he just stood there like a rock, and he did not say yes.
he said no.
this memorial day, we are going to celebrate the human persons who have stood in the face of tremendous pressure, prison time, not being able to work and take care of family, sometimes people who sacrificed their lives in the name of peace, but they stood and said NO. they are fish who swim upstream! swimming upstream is the hard way. the water is rushing straight at you, straight into you, pushing and pummeling, sometimes so hard you have to leap out of the foam into the air just to hear yourself think for a second before you plunge right back into the onrush of water screaming at you YOU WILL DO WHAT WE WANT!!! you will go THIS way! you will do as you are told!
human persons who have said no to war should have a day when they are celebrated. because war is an evil thing. it is not some intrinsic part of your nature. violence perhaps is— it is certainly part of ours. but war is just a horrible, deadly, wicked social construct, in which some people sincerely believe, but most just go because they think they have to. most don’t realize they have a choice. most, when they are marched into a room full of other human persons, step forward and say yes, because all the other human persons in the room did.
muhammad ali will always be the greatest fighter boxing has ever known, this is true. he will always be known for his wit and his grace, and for his sheer power and force. but the day he stood in a room and said nothing? that will always be his finest moment as a human person.