Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States.

There will be the obligatory ceremonies at cemetaries. Flags will be placed on graves. Politicians will speak of the honored dead. Many citizens, of course, will pay little attention to the day except as a 24-hour extension to the weekend. Some will jet-ski over the moment.

Memorial Day, however, is as much about us as it is about those who died for our nation. What sort of people are we? Is this country simply a pleasant place to make a living and otherwise not all that better than ten or twelve other spots on the globe or should it have a special place in our hearts and be worth dying for? Do we justify the sacrifice of people who suffered extreme mental and physical anguish and indeed gave their lives so that this experiment in freedom can survive?

There are people who regard any expression of patriotism as embarrassing. These are Patriots But. "I'm a patriot but we have to remember slavery, or the treatment of the Indian tribes, or Watergate, or dictatorships we propped up, or..." the list continues. They hold their nation to a utopian standard that no country could meet and regard patriotism as jingoism; something cheap and rather low-class. They claim to honor the military but would never seriously consider enlisting. Oh, the military, that's for other people.

Well, today we Americans honor a great many of those other people. A large number of them had the same dreams and ambitions we hold and far more talent. They deserve some respectful reflection, not cynicism or indifference, from each of us.


Wally Bock said...

That is an astoundingly good post. You've also added a phrase to my lexicon. "Patriot But" is too good to leave it with you alone. Thank you.

Michael Wade said...

Thank you, Wally!