Memorial (Day)

I’ve been an American all my life and a veteran for about a decade, but I never made the connection between Memorial Day and grilling. This is a classic case of dissonance, of two stories parting ways, maybe irrevocably. On the one hand, as a veteran, partying on Memorial Day begs the metaphor of rolling up with your Weber to a funeral. Who does that?

But on the other hand, I realized recently (thanks to a country western song), why partying is important. Having a good time is a way to appreciate that which is thought to be earned by “the ultimate sacrifice” (i.e. “freedom/s” to pursue happiness and live as we choose). I can appreciate that, and maybe it’s like funerals in New Orleans, which kind of taunts death by celebrating a life lived rather than mourning the life we here remaining on earth will miss. 

So I guess the question is whether celebration is done to the detriment of mourning, of whether we can have it both ways. But in the long twilight of multiple ongoing conflicts in which few, if any, sacrifices were shared by the general public (compare GOWT to WWI & WWII, for example), I still can’t see the sense of celebration if most, if not all, of the loss was felt by the few who serve and their immediate families.

I suppose I still feel the way I always have, and that is that Memorial Day calls for mourning rather than celebration, at least until we as a society are capable of reflecting the tension between the two. Unfortunately, most of what I see is one to the exclusion of the other. Or, perhaps more accurately, one expressed by one group (celebration by non-military connected populace) and another expressed by another group (remembrance by current and former military communities).

What would it take for the wider population to take its cues from the minority of those who serve and whom the holiday serves to remember?

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