Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day, 2016

      We do lots of activities over Memorial Day weekend—picnics and barbecues, tent sales and, not to forget the big event itself, the Indianapolis 500.
     Don't blame the shrug of modern life. When Memorial Day began, right after the Civil War, as Decoration Day, it was a time for families to visit the graves of their knighted Union dead, outings immediately re-purposed by amorous young folk.
     "Decoration Day was also a day of courtship for the young people," notes holiday scholar Jack Santino, pointing out how 19th century couples would wander off to the more remote spots of woodsy cemeteries.
      Given these practical uses of the holiday, we can't be blamed for wondering, as we dip our heads and reflect on the sacrifice of soldiers who gave their lives for the country, for whose benefit do we do this?
      The noble dead? To please those gazing down at us from heaven?
     Pretty to think so. I would suggest, however, that we remember those who yielded their lives, not as a favor to them, but for ourselves. Dignity demands it. Our nation did not form spontaneously, like a mountain range, but was wrested by intention and force from Mother Britain. Nor did it survive for 240 years without the exercise of military power--often in folly, for certain but sometimes crucially, to make sure the Wehrmacht didn't come rolling down Michigan Avenue....

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  1. A difficult topic, if approached seriously and not as an mere opportunity to emit mindless platitudes and then get on with the barbecue. When I was 10 years old, I lamented the end of Korean War as the final curtain on the opportunity for a man to prove himself in heroic warfare. Now 60 some years later, I'm bewildered by the ubiquity of armed conflict all over the world and especially of our involvement, direct and indirect, in so many of the conflicts. I once thought Star Wars was silly, projecting 20th Century mindsets way into a future with a highly advanced culture that surely would reject warfare as an insanely inefficient way of settling differences. Now I'm not so sure. Can we honor those who died to "keep us free" without enshrining the art of war?


  2. The "banshee" screams of opposition on so-called social media and actual media just overwhelm logic in just about all cases. To be silent seems to be an an admission of defeat, or at least agreement with the idiots.

  3. Another wonderful column, Neil! I particularly loved the last paragraph!

  4. I agree with everything but the bit about John McCain "tarnishing his legacy." What legacy would that be, exactly? Being one of the Keating Five? McCain has the highest ratio of obnoxious self-righteousness to ethics and achievement of any politician I've ever seen. And that's saying something.

    Bitter Scribe


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