Quite often, Memorial Day sucks for me. Let me be clear, this blog post has some general truth but is about a set of circumstances highly particular to my background and experience which includes old Iran and U.S. military.
Memorial Day is about remembering fallen soldiers — not just dead soldiers — but killed by violence. Some came back home in one piece, some in parts, some in an empty coffin. Death sucks. Some death is peaceful and painless like in sleep, some prolonged and painful like mortal disease. Unexpected death is the worst and these are all unexpected deaths.
It is also a celebration of heroism and a sacrifice. I am not sure how one can celebrate sacrifice and life of people they did not and do not know without some some point of common pain and suffering that the fallen, family and friends share, and not just on Memorial Day.
It sucks because it reminds me of people I knew, people I loved, role models I grew up with. I sucks because it is a reminder of the evil and garbage that took their lives. It suck because it highlights a past and present range of behavior that I observe and particularly abhorrent and repugnant in this context: hypocrisy, moral-leeching and self-serving opportunism.
I am not being harsh on people; with busy lives and problems, may be sticking magnetic “Support Our Troops” ribbons on cars, observing moments of silence and saying “thank you for your service” when they see someone in the uniform are not bad gestures. What else would one normally do and how many of our gestures are genuine and not socially programmed behavior anyways ?
For me, it not about most people. It is not even about some level of expected hypocrisy when people get a free ride of moral common-good highroad by participating in mass ritualistic association and talking the talk without walking the walk.
My issue is specifically with behavior that goes beyond a “victimless” taking credit without having earned it, or even something akin to stolen valor. It is when those pretenses take on a form and morph into something exactly opposite and in conflict with what it was supposed (or even pretend) to represent. Using respect for heroes as a tool to advance agendas that are in conflict with what the fallen stood for are much worse deeds than the enemy who did the killing.
Here it goes doing some remembering.
Family Military Lives … & Deaths
I had a few military and non-military members who made the ultimate sacrifice and targeted for leadership/military reasons. This includes my father which is a rather special case.
Some of this is mentioned elsewhere in the context of biographical summary and some I have not disclosed before but the benefits of disclosure outweigh harms of non-disclosure and I am not subject to any government classification on these matters.
I grew up in a tight knit family environment where what is usually considered extended family were physically close by, a few houses way, in the same neighborhood, or a close drive away. For 13 years, my maternal grandparents’ house was in the adjacent lot, connected from the interior and we all shared meals there. On the weekend the extended family was always over or stop by randomly, for the evening, dinner and talk.
My grandfather was a military general, judge and a scholar and artist. I spent a lot of time with and was very close to him. He went to the French military academy, was one of the Shah’ teachers, wrote books and painted well. I used to seen go to and come back from work in his military uniform. His military rank advancement stopped when he refused a back channel suggestion to condemn some socialist soldiers to death in his military court, for their beliefs not matter how abhorrent, and out of the process. He kept his rank and continued in the military until the revolution. He was known for his honesty and not using his position to amass wealth as many did. A family story is during a ceremony at the Royal court, the Shah took the lapel of his tuxedo by hand and whispered in his ear: did you rent this? A life of bravery, integrity, service and sacrifice for principles.
My mother’s maternal uncle was Iran’s first 4 star general who by some accounts was framed and dismissed for direct contacts with the Eisenhower administration about U.S. military aid being plundered by corrupt military generals in the Iranian army. He was also awarded U.S. Legion of Merit during the Cold War. A life of bravery, integrity, service and sacrifice for principles.
A relation by marriage, my mother’s uncle in law was a military leader who became a prime minister. He was assassinated by a Muslim fundamentalist group whose founder was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a mentor to Ayatollah Khomeini and a hero of the current Ayatollah Khamenei. A life of bravery, integrity, service and sacrifice for principles.
On may father’s side, his cousin’s husband, whom I did not see often or know well, and who was the last commander of the army under the Shah, was assassinated in Paris by the Islamic Jihad. A life of bravery, integrity, service and sacrifice for principles.
My father was a business executive in then the largest agricultural complex in the region. He was imprisoned, tortured and executed for trying to overthrow the revolutionary government.
He was not in the military or the previous government. Unlike political activists and, unusual for civilians, he was tried in a military court. Despite various pleas for his release through our extensive networks, my family was told this is an impossibly high order that no one seems to be able to question. An extremely high level ayatollah who had taken some bribes to give out, apologized and gave the money back.
The sticking points were not my mother’s family background. The summary of execution published in the newspapers mentioned the coup attempt, contacts with his cousin’s husband in the U.S. (the last commander of the army) which were recorded, collaboration with foreign powers (i.e. U.S.) and membership in the Masonic fraternity and brotherhood.
What is not told is a story that is known to a few.
We had other family and friends in the military some of whom went through training with various U.S. military branches. There were also U.S. military officers we knew. Given my father’s side U.S. college education he had ranking U.S. military friends and some lived in the neighborhood.
At the height of the revolution, when crowds were in the street, setting cars and buildings on fire, shouting death to America (which led to the taking of U.S. embassy hostages for 444 days,) my father received a call from his U.S. military friend. He was afraid and asked my father to take him to where he wanted to go too flee Iran. He was in such a hurry that he left without his passports. My father dropped him off, sold some of his property in absentia, packed the rest of his stuff and had it shipped to the U.S.
I am not mentioning this to imply that my farther saved his friend but, for those who did not get it, 1) he was the man to call and trust with your life and 2) he was the kind of person who helped, and at the risk of his own peril, when others would not move a finger or answer the phone. What is one less fallen soldier or a star on a wall worth?
A life of bravery, integrity, service and sacrifice for principles.
I believe I have articulated well, a rather high bar and my lack of tolerance for bullshit on this subject. It takes more than verbalization of thoughts and prayers and vulgar pretense of care to get respect from people who actually go through this types of pain and sacrifice.
Meanwhile, over time, some people in both the Persian community and government agencies, have used and are using, abused and are abusing, the circumstances, respect for my father and the weight his actions carry, the rest of my family and I, and links in exclusive, high level, or popular, known networks, for personal gain and advancing self-serving agendas that go against every thing he stood and we stand for. This is particularly true for Vancouver, B.C. which is riddled with corruption, influence operations by the Iranian intelligence and organized crime proxies, fronts or rackets, and with spill-overs and expansion to Seattle, L.A. and other cities. Agencies in Seattle have seized on the opportunity and have been trying to come up narratives or fronts for lead generating, sting or intelligence gathering purposes.
This is not a post to articulate further as it is better done in the Lux ex Tenebris: Light from Darkness program blog which I am managing and, incidentally, circumstances where same or similar “fuck the dead and the victims, what is in it for me” crowd circle like vultures.
So, it is (also) in the memory of these blood related fallen soldiers (and for not related others who were killed in line of duty,) what they stood for and why they did it, that I do what I do. Not just today but every day. There is no better way to remember.
And as for dealing with the trash that has been, and is pushing an agenda using, but in conflict with our and other people’s sacrifices, I am not the type of person who does a military style threat or call for a sniper on them, but do what I do best: shine the light of truth, name, praise, or shame people who helped, people who did not and those who stand on the way. My thoughts and prayers are with them all.