To me, respecting the memory of American soldiers who died in the service of their country is a task best undertaken with a respect for history on the part of those still living. Speaking only for myself, I take history very seriously, and have done so for as long as I can remember.
This almost certainly springs from my WWII veteran father’s fascination with the far-off events conspiring to transport a hick like him from bucolic Georgetown, Indiana, to the Pacific Theater of Operations … and in his case, fortunately, back home again. Others weren’t as lucky, and every year on Memorial Day, I pause to reflect on this.
Every year as a prelude to Memorial Day, there are scolding social media reminders to the effect that Americans fixated on holiday feasting, partying and recreation are somehow dishonoring the nation’s military heritage. I understand this sentiment, and not only that, but I do my own share of ranting from time to time about similar instances of historical ignorance on the part of the general populace.
Yet, I don’t think honor and bacchanalia are mutually exclusive. After all, the venerable institution of the wake combines them very effectively.
Like the vast majority of topics pertaining to human beings, the notion of dying for one’s country is inordinately complex. John Gonder touched on it yesterday during a brief conversation, when he mentioned the escape clause during the American Civil War, wherein men drafted into the Union Army could buy their way out of service by paying $300 or providing a substitute.
During the Vietnam War, songwriter John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival noticed it, too: Exactly how is it determined which ones die for their country, and which ones profit from their death?
Perhaps Dick Cheney knows the answer.
Preferably, respecting the memory of American soldiers who died in the service of their country is a task best undertaken with a respect for history on the part of those still living, along with sadness and regret that human civilization seems not to have evolved to a point of no longer requiring violence to settle issues. War is a ridiculous concept, although humans seem enamored of it.
It’s also a holiday weekend.
I suspect you are enjoying it.
Memorial Day (Snopes)
Claim: Former slaves reburied dead Union prisoners of war in May 1865, thus creating the modern observance of Memorial Day.
TRUE: In May 1865, free blacks in Charleston reburied dead Union prisoners of war and held a cemetery dedication ceremony.
UNDETERMINED: The event referenced above is the origin of the modern Memorial Day observance.
Wikipedia’s article goes into greater detail.