By the time you read this, Memorial Day will have passed, although I fear many of us will not have seized the opportunity to mark the day in somber and reflective fashion.
Unfortunately, Memorial Day has grown to mark the start of summer, beach going, and shopping – with discounted sales on everything from furniture to carpet and from computer-related gear to outdoor grills.
Instead, we should all consider what Memorial Day was meant to be by considering the words of Union General John A. Logan:
“Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan
In 1875, The New York Tribune, in writing about Decoration Day (Memorial Day) rightly expressed about the ongoing conflict of the day – between the solemn reflection required by the day with the immediate gratification of a holiday in the sun by writing: “…The holiday aspect remains; how much longer the political character of the observance will linger we dare not guess.”
While we observe Memorial Day and other national holidays, it’s vital we make contact with the meaning and context of the observance. It is our history, our culture, our way of life, and therefore our duty as citizens to remember. To do less, is to slowly surrender our birthright as Americans and not only accept but encourage the dismantling of our heritage and traditions that make Memorial Day possible.