Monday, May 29, 2006

White Crosses

This is a reproduction of something I wrote some time ago, for a previous online column I did back before it was called "blogging" (sometime in 2000/2001, IIRC.) I'm putting it up here because it seems appropriate today.

"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."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course, the purpose of Labor Day is to make sure the U.S. does not celebrate a bunch of commies. (-; As you probably know, "Labor Day" is celebrated on May 1st in pretty much all the rest of the world, commemorating the Hay Market Riot in Chicago in 1886 (when I was growing up, the school textbooks mentioned the "martyrs of Chicago" in connection to May Day). Labor Day in the U.S. is in September mainly because the Knights of Labor, a catholic tailor union founded along the same lines as the Knights of Columbus, got the support of Grover Cleveland to officially designate some day ->other than<- May 1st for Labor Day, for fear of strengthening the socialists if they allowed May 1st to be the celebratory date.