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The typically American concept of the ‘gold star parents’ is an interesting one. When I watched Khizr Khan and his wife on TV, proudly announcing their gold star status, it struck me that my country of birth, India, has no such ‘exclusive club’. Thousands of Indian jawans die every year trying to secure its borders against Pakistani infiltrators and you don’t get to hear a peep about their parents being given even bag of groceries.

Neither do the Europeans or even the Russians or the Chinese have anything close to ‘gold star parents’. The ancient Spartans had moms who handed their 6-year old male children over to the state, to be groomed to do battle and die as heroes. When they did inevitably die, the parents were honored, pretty much like the American Gold Star Moms of today. Of course, in the case of the Spartans, that was the law and the parents had little say in the matter. It was either go get trained as a soldier and die in battle or go work in the hazardous arsenic-laced gold and silver mines and die there.

A modern-day parallel to the American Gold Star Moms and Dads is North Korea. I am told that the North Koreans have a well established system of badges of honor doled out to the parents of dead soldiers. The parents walk around with those badges proudly displayed on their drab tunics and total strangers walk up to them to shake their hands. Of course, in North Korea, those strangers are mandated by law to shake a Gold Star parent’s hands (unless they want to find themselves rotting inside a gulag).

I guess any nation which places greater value on putting on a show, rather than actually behaving honorably, will have inane institutions such as ‘gold star fathers’ and ‘gold star mothers’.

It is a perfect win-win situation : the nation starts a war, invades another nation that was simply minding its own business half a world away and just when the body bags begin coming home and morale begins flagging, it helps to artificially boost it with organizations like ‘Gold Star Mothers Inc.’ and ‘Gold Star Fathers Inc.’

‘Always give ’em something to look forward to, even in death’, seems to be the dictum. So what if the real hero is dead. Make his parents the heroes by giving them fancy titles like ‘Gold Star Mother’ or ‘Gold Star Father’. They’ll be thrilled when total strangers walk up to them and shake their hands. They will forget their son or daughter died fighting an unjust war.

Do the alleged ‘mothers’ in the above photo look grief stricken to you? I think they seem a little too smug and definitely tickled to have their pictures taken. I wonder what they must be thinking – perhaps something along these lines……’I wish I had a couple more sons to let The White House send to their deaths. Then maybe I could get to be Gold Star Mom of the Month’.

Perhaps those Gold Star Moms just can’t wait to be on the receiving end of those flag folding ceremonies, where three or four soldiers, who were a part of the coffin bearing platoon, begin folding the flag that had been draped over the coffin, in an excruciatingly slow and painstaking process that takes several minutes and is designed to make you grit your teeth. At the end of it, the flag turns into a tightly wrapped triangular bundle that resembles a cushion. The bundle is then handed over to the Gold Star Mom, who receives it with an expression that looks like she is the one who should be grateful.

The amount of ceremony that goes into a military funeral in the US is unbelievable, though for what purpose escapes me. No one bothers to remember the fallen anyway. Before Mr. Khizr Khan spoke  up at the DNC, did Americans even know that there existed on earth an American named Capt Humayun Khan? On the day he gave his life, in 2004, did even a single American civilian on the street hear about his sacrifice? Do they know that, like Capt. Khan, there are no less than fourteen other Muslims, lying six feet under the manicured grass at the Arlington Cemetery alone? We know the answers to those questions, don’t we?

Are mothers in Raqqa, Molenbeek or Mosul also aspiring to be Gold Star Moms, I wonder. Maybe they’ll call themselves ‘All Star Moms’? (All, short for Allah). And why the hell not? (Though, I suspect there won’t be any bagpipes there).

This has to be the perfect jerk-off.

More ironic is the fact that in America, while the dead are honored by giving their parents the gold star status, veterans who are still alive, barely managing to adapt to civilian life, ridden with alcoholism and drug addiction brought on by PTSD and/or Moral Injury – their plight is pathetic, administered by an institution called “Veterans’ Affairs” which has been shown to be one of the most inept and apathetic public sector organizations on the planet.

The ‘Gold Star’ status is a ludicrous farce, especially for a nation that does not have to worry about an invasion, since it is bound by two vast oceans on either side and friendly neighbors in the north and the south.  Therefore, for an American GI mom, alas, Gold Stars can only be won when her Li’l Billy catches a bullet between his eyes, while engaged in an act of naked aggression, against a country half a world away that never did America any harm.

I know what I want to be – just a father, not a Gold Star Sucker.