Memorial Day

Even many Americans seem to FORGET or NOT KNOW that this coming Monday (May 29th) is a (federal) holiday – and most that do, seem to NOT KNOW (nor even care) why. What about YOU?

Like most “holy days” in the United States, Memorial Day is often regarded by many as merely a (3-4 day) “weekend” off work and chance to buy things “on sale”. Americans often wish each other a HAPPY Memorial Day rather than REMIND each other what the day is meant to REMEMBER (and “honor”): U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines killed in war (presumably “in service to their country”). Others killed in wars (even “in service to their nation”) are not included – and neither are those wounded, or anyone still living.

Memorial Day began as a day to “decorate” the graves of those killed in the War Between the States. The only thing “Civil” about that war was how many “civilian” lives were lost or disrupted – and how many families were torn apart by fighting within themselves. More “Americans” killed each other during that war than “foreign” enemies have killed in any war since. The fighting had NOTHING to do with slavery – and neither does Memorial Day (which over time became the designated day for Americans to remember and honor “their” uniformed MILITARY DEAD from ALL U.S. wars).

Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day – which is meant to “honor” all who have served in the uniformed military armed forces rather than only those killed in war.

Memorial Day is supposed to be devoted to remembering and honoring war dead.

The dead continue to “live on” as long as others remember them.
It’s people’s LIVES we should remember and honor – not DEATH.
And we should not WAIT until someone is dead to think of them.

Do all lives matter? Not to most people – no matter what they say.
The dead also often seem to matter more to many than the living.
It is only after they are dead that many people are “cared” about.

There are NO “national” holidays in the United States of America; there are only FEDERAL holidays – that EACH State may or may not choose to “adopt” and “observe” as one of its own. Memorial Day is a “moveable” holiday – now observed on the last Monday of May rather than on a fixed calendar date (like U.S. Independence Day on the 4th of July).

Since there is nothing significant about WHEN Memorial Day is observed by Americans, perhaps it would make more sense to move Memorial Day to JULY 3rd – the day before “Independence Day” – to make more of a connection with the “cost of freedom” – especially since NOTHING happened on the 4th of Jul, 1776; it was just a date on a still unsigned document – “declaring independence”. It took 13 long bloody years of fighting (mainly of “Americans” against each other rather than against British soldiers) and then a “negotiated treaty” before anyone anywhere regarded the American colonies as “independent” (united States) – and 20 years later, Americans and the British were again at war with each other. For Americans to better appreciate (and “celebrate”) their “independence”, they should move (military) “Memorial Day” from the end of May to the beginning of July – with a fixed date before “Independence Day”.

Today, only around 1% of U.S. citizens serve in the armed forces and only around 10% of the total living population EVER has, so it’s not surprising that most Americans probably won’t think much about “their” war dead on Monday. Most Americans either forget or are not even aware that their country is today actively “at war” (and has been for MANY years) and that the number of American military (let alone others) killed during war increases almost daily.

It has become customary for the President of the United States to visit Arlington National (military) Cemetery on Memorial Day and deliver a speech. Other than surviving military veterans and families of those killed, few other Americans are likely to visit any cemetery or memorial on Monday or to even think about them.

That so many Americans do NOT devote even a portion of their day to thinking about those killed in U.S. wars (past and present) may contribute to how many more will be killed – and forgotten.

Televised “news” on Monday will probably show changing of the guard ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns. With advances in DNA identification, there will probably be no more “unknown” (uniformed) soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines killed in war but unless there is a change in values, priorities, choices, and habits, few war deaths will be remembered, cared about, or prevented.

What are YOUR thoughts (and plans for) Memorial Monday?

© 2017, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

Oren Pardes

Oren Pardes has written 70 post in this blog.

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1 response to Memorial Day


  1. Robin Brooks

    Too many lives are forgotten among the living. Nevermind, I understand how nearsightedly imprisoned everyday life hold many people. I would love to see ideas and actions to bring greater awareness, definition and appreciation to the sacrifice and meaning of our country’s memorial day. Don’t know if the dead are cared about more once they are gone, but personally speaking they are surely reflected upon and some are missed.

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