"The local radio station's been running promos all weekend, talking about how Memorial Day isn't just about the paid vacation, or the long weekend, or barbeques or fishing trips. They're having their DJs record little messages, talking about remembering the men and women who've served this country, who've defended our freedom, and how proud they are to live in such a great country.
"Which is fine, I suppose, as far as it goes, demonstrating to us that one of the littler-understood holidays has a purpose (Labor Day, I think, is the other one that seems to be less celebrated than used as a convenient excuse for a day off.) But I don't think they've got the right end of the stick, here. I could be wrong, but I don't think they're understanding Memorial Day at all.
"It's not about celebrating the men and women who've served our country and defended our freedom. Surely that'd be Veteran's Day? And I can't imagine that it's a day to think about how proud we are to be Americans...I think Independence Day would be more appropriate for that. In fact, I think that patriotism actually interferes with the true purpose of Memorial Day.
"Memorial Day is a day to remember the dead. It is a day in which we contemplate the wars that have been fought, for politics, for kings, for territory, for hatred, or for no reason at all. It is a day in which we consider the North Vietnamese soldier fighting to reunite his country, his flesh burning with napalm, and the day in which we consider the American soldier dying half a world away from the people he loves with a sniper's bullet lodged in his head. It is a day when we look to Russia and imagine a generation of young men decimated by war, a country bled white by the invading Nazis, and in which we try to imagine what it must have been like for the German soldiers as they froze to death fighting for the dreams of a madman. It is a day when we look at the world around us, and at the millions of graves that we've already dug, row upon row of white crosses staring back at us, and ask ourselves, is this something we want to do again?
"Perhaps it's no wonder that people prefer to think of it as an excuse for barbeques and fishing trips."