Like so much of American history, Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865.
More people died in the Civil War than any other conflict in U.S. history. It led to establishing the nation’s first national cemeteries.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. It established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May and made Memorial Day a federal holiday, creating a three-day weekend. It “unofficially marks the beginning of summer.”
I’m a southerner and part of America’s extended military family.
My dad’s older brother was career Navy; my dad served in the Navy in World War II; various and sundry cousins served in the Navy, Marines and SeaBees. My first husband fought in Vietnam on a Navy ship. My current husband’s dad was career Air Force and is a veteran of Korea and Vietnam. My brother-in-law is a vet. A friend is a veteran of both Iraq wars. Other friends have children who are Afghanistan/Iraq war vets.
But I feel as though I am part of a shrinking population.
Stop for a moment and think about how pervasively WWII permeated society compared to our 21st century Middle East War (Afghanistan/Iraq).
No deprivation for citizens during modern days of war until now, since Russia invaded Ukraine.
We had the Wall Street provoked Great Recession, which had everything to do with greed, stupidity, and abysmal regulatory oversight. Gas prices went through the roof for a while then, as now. That 2008 recession was not Iraq/Afghanistan war-related and much of today’s increase isn’t war-related, either.
There is truth to the adage, “out of sight, out of mind.”
We have an estimated 3 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s fewer than 1-in-100 Americans. Not adults. Not “war-age” adults. ALL citizens.
We, the people, are emotionally, physically, and financially disconnected from wars fought (ostensibly) in our name.
For most of us, these wars are out of sight.
This is emphatically true for our “war against terror” (see the recent Congressional budget vote that does not close Guantanamo), pervasive government and commercial invasions of privacy (geolocation, warrantless wiretaps, video cameras on street corners), and high-tech warfare (killing drones).
And then there is the war on common sense perpetuated by the NRA and its adherents: that restricting access to guns will have no impact on decreasing deaths committed with guns. Especially guns that were designed for war, that have one purpose: kill people.
We honor symbols of war, not peace.
The $73 million settlement between Remington and nine families of Sandy Hook is an important civil action. After the fact. Their children are still dead.
In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields