The C.O. Memorial Highway

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Conscientious Objectors Memorial Highway

One can walk a quarter-mile from the entrance/exit gate of the VA hospital next to CSU Long Beach and arrive at a portion of Pacific Coast Highway that is designated as a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway. I don’t know if there’s a census of this road marker of military service, but over the past two decades I’ve seen more than a few such stretches of highway, including one that was less than a hundred yards from where Linda and I lived in Lynbrook, New York.

I don’t object to honoring the veterans of that war. Those whose service enabled the policy makers of U.S. government to engage in their post-colonial fantasies in Southeast Asia are entitled to as much compassion as can be summoned. Highway markers, in fact, are hardly sufficient to compensate for the lack of care that many Vietnam veterans encountered upon their return to the United States. If such public markers can in some way assuage, reconcile, or dignify their decision to be part of that war, then let the memorials be maintained. So far, I have never seen any tagging on a VV memorial highway sign. Almost everything else has been fair game for graffiti, but this road sign appears to be off-limits.

On the other hand, it strikes me as odd that not a single highway has ever been named “The Vietnam War Protestors Memorial Highway.” Or even more to the point of genuine self-sacrifice: “The Vietnam War Conscientious Objectors Memorial Highway.” Do not the young men who went to prison or insisted on alternative duty rather than submit to America’s pathological war machine deserve at least one memorial road with a decent vista on the continental United States? If there’s a highway dedicated to those who serve in “Military Intelligence,” surely those who have refused to participate in state-organized mass murder have earned the modest singularity of “The C.O. Memorial Highway.” I doubt I’ll live long enough to drive that stretch of road, but I, too, have a minimal dream.