Like most holidays here in the United States, we have largely forgotten the meaning of Memorial Day and how we ought to be celebrating it.
Memorial day has become the unofficial start to our summer. It’s a day to mark the beginning of school free days spent by the side of pools filled with cool chlorine waters and warm nights spent on the patios of the best bars in town.
Everybody gets a three day weekend. Pools open and parks open and every citizen must have a grill fired up and a beer in hand. Liquor is flowing and copious amounts of food are being eaten. Kids are swimming and the stores are filled with people looking to for the best Memorial Day sale. It does sound so bad. It sounds pretty awesome actually.
Except none of that is what Memorial Day is all about.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.
I believe most Americans have no idea what Memorial Day is about.
Memorial Day is for remembering the people who died for this country. Men and women who put on a uniform and were shipped off to lands they had never known, to fight people they were told they had to fight. People who followed orders and never got to come home.
Sometimes they wanted to give their lives for what the country they were born in and believed in, sometimes they had no choice. Sometimes they were fearless and brave and marched into battle knowing they were saving lives and honoring their country. Sometimes they barely knew why they were there in the first place.
I may sound a bit preachy here, I may sound like a real Debbie Downer, but I just think there should be more remembrance and reflection and less time spent eating, drinking, and shopping. I know this in my heart but I have a hard time articulating why exactly.
It is not exactly for patriotic reasons. I don’t like war. I don’t glorify. There are countries and people I do think the United States should be fighting or helping and it is never the countries or people we are fighting. I think war is a terrible thing and I think the United States has done a lot of terrible things and lied to its people to get what it wanted. War is never fought for the right reasons and the reasons it is fought is never the reasons the government says it is.
I think the reason it is important is because soldiers are treated as tools, a means to an end. They are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They had hopes and dreams and lives they never got to live because they were killed, often far from home and their loved ones.
We should remember them because whatever they were really fighting for, they believed they were fighting for us.
Whether or not you feel like you are apart of this country, or if you feel like you love this country, if you feel like this country doesn’t love you, we have to take the time to mark the deaths of the past and the reasons why or lives begin not to matter. Those people who ran into battle under this flag should not be remembered as a means to and end and a necessary price to pay for all that we have. They are people like you and me and people’s lives should not be so easily given up or extinguished.
Today is to remember the men who lost the most precious thing we are given, life, sometimes for good and sometimes for what feels like no reason at all.
Today is for reflection on the greatest shame of humanity. That we cannot find a way to get live on this planet without killing one another in mass numbers.