is Memorial Day supposed to celebrate, anyways?”
The good news is that this quote was said by a child. The bad news was that we all had different ideas about the answer. So far, our children have grown up thinking it is a holiday when all of the neighbors get together, make a big fire in the grill, separate out the kids drinks from the adult ones, and talk about the newest animals roaming our streets.
And oddly enough, I am pretty sure there is actually some basis for this tradition. My father is originally from a very small town in the mid-west. And many Memorial Days while I was young we celebrated by going back his home town to sharing their holiday festivities. This included a street parade (three blocks, from the firehouse to the courthouse) made up of horses, kids in wagons, all Miss Watsons who were still alive and able to walk, a few tractors with flags on them, and the high school band playing patriotic songs. At the end of the parade route there was a huge picnic set up, with tents and tables and, yes, a huge grill with a big fire in it for BBQing. I seem to recall some silly contests, like pie eating, and a speech by the mayor. I also clearly remember discussion about which animals were plaguing the farmers that year.
So, all in all, not that different from our own, more modern, celebration. The question I have is why? Why do we celebrate Memorial Day like this? How does it represent what the holiday is all about.
According to Time for Kids
: Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May. It is an occasion to honor the
men and women who died in all wars.
Not only that, but it was started in 1868 and was named Memorial Day 20 years later. Then in 1950, it became officially recognized when: On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a
proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.
So not only do we remember those who have died in wars, but we also unite in praying for peace. In fact, there is even designated a “National moment for remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time.” Somewhere in the BBQ set-up and fire building I think this moment was lost yesterday. I won’t let that happen again next year though.
And, actually, after the food was eaten and the kids had at least been told the part about remembering those who had died in wars, we did sort of say our own neighborhood version of a prayer for peace… it went something like this:
“Please Lord, let the raccoon who is at war with our neighborhood find a new home. Amen.”
Happy Memorial day to all of my friends, family and readers.
"How else do you fight oppression?"
Ever since the Gun Control bill was voted down I have been stewing. It is an uncomfortable feeling for me, neither determined, nor apathetic. It is how I envision Purgatory. Having listened to many conversations on this topic, and after weighing the different arguments given, I finally felt compelled to put pen to paper. Note: I am not a Political Sciences or Constitutional scholar. I am a mother, a wife, a business person and a writer. The topic of Gun Control belongs to all of us, though, in a very personal way.
You should first know that I came into the discussion with a bias towards banning all weapons. I would have included all violent games and music in that as well had it been up for grabs. I have struggled to understand anyone’s arguments against gun control.
Recently, though, I heard a discussion about the Second Amendment which finally helped me understand it in a new light. The language around the second amendment is simple, stating (in the version passed by Congress in 1791):
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
While the primary intent of these words has been debated, a very smart and knowledgeable friend pointed out to me that the fundamental purpose of the Second Amendment was as a means for keeping the government in check. She
felt that the idea of our forefathers was to provide ordinary citizens the ability to organize an armed militia in case the government ever decided to abuse its power.
It created an ‘aha’ moment for me. The entire Second Amendment finally made sense. I considered that an original cause of the revolution was the British Government trying to take their gun powder weapons. I thought of the early Americans, so scared that they would lay their life on the line only to have their rights taken away again by a new government. As I wrote in my blog recently, power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
So I finally got it and it made me feel so much closer to everyone who has been fighting against gun control (with the exception of the head NRA guy who I still think is just crazy). But after I had given the argument deeper thought I found a few disappointing flaws.
First, I think we all have to admit that governments no longer use guns as their primary weapons. They have bombers, and drones and chemical weapons to do their damage. And while they aren’t quite as advanced as the
government in the Hunger Games, I’m still fairly confident current military weapons would beat anything we ordinary
citizens could weal, even assuming we were well organized and trained.
Since I’m not too comfortable with the idea that the right to bear arms would include my neighbors stockpiling WMDs, I can’t understand where this leaves the Second Amendment.
My second thought was more of a question. Who exactly decides when the government is abusing its power? How do we even define ‘government’? Is it the President? Congress? The three branches of government? Most importantly, what exactly would we do if there was a new law that the majority of Americans wanted but the government blocked via an abuse of their powers. Could the founding fathers have foreseen that even when 90% of American’s would
have voted for gun control a handful of legislators could and would block it to ensure they maintained power their own, personal, power? Does anyone else feel this reeks of abuse?
We live in a wonderful, free, and mostly hopeful country and I would like to keep it that way. But if the purpose of the Second Amendment was to give us the power to fight government oppression, then why do I feel so powerless right now?
“You are brainwashed into thinking whatever the government tells you is legitimate.”
I grew up in a house that believed in many conspiracy theories. The JFK assassination, the first walk on the moon, the Pearl Harbor bombing; these things came along with the idea that somehow the government had created or facilitated each incident in order to progress their own agenda.
It is easy to fall into this pattern of thought. After all, our government doesn’t seem to inspire much confidence. Rather than prioritize what is best for the citizens, politicians make getting re-elected their top goal. After the disheartening gun control vote in the senate, it is easy to reach the conclusion that the citizen’s views don’t
“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”This quote by 19th century historian, Lord Maxim, is well known; certainly, I grew up reciting it. But more recent research has shown that there is a connection between someone’s moral identity (how strongly they feel it is for them to be fair, generous, caring, etc.) and how they use
power (more in this article at Smithsonian.com
And I would take this full circle. My hypothesis is that the lower a person’s moral identity, the more likely they are to believe in conspiracy theories under the assumption that if they were to gain power that is how they would act.
As a parent this begs the question of how to build strong moral identity in our kids. But as a citizen it makes me wonder whether there could be an objective test we could give to politicians before we elect them. It could become part of their running platform; Nominee xyz scored a 99% on the moral identity scale: Paid for by friend of xyz.
would there be a conspiracy to fix the results so the ‘right’candidate would be elected?
Phew! To be honest, I’m not sure what my moral identity score would be, but I know my laziness score is high... and conspiracy theories are simply too much work for me.
“My whole family calls my grandmother Oma.”
Being a grandparent is a funny thing. I should know, since I was one. Wait! Not like that! My daughter’s only eight. But years ago her darn stuffed animals didn’t know what to call me. If she was Mama, then what was I? Gramdma, obviously. NOT! Believe me I nipped that in the bud quick.
Still, the fact that my reaction was so severe tells me what it might be like years from now when she finally does have a child. It is one of those milestones which is both exciting and a scary all at once. I look forward to the freedom of it. The ability to watch from afar and laugh at the many trials I am sure her own progeny will put her through. I pray that she has a fun and loving husband to help her with those. And I also pray I will be able to
stand far enough away that she makes her own mistakes, but close enough that she always knows I have her back.
AT the same time, since we got started late on our family, the day this happens may be so far in the future that I will be too blind to see it. We joke that at her wedding my husband will need a cane to walk her down the aisle. Since I hope she gets to enjoy those early days with her husband, free of children, how much older will we be when we turn up our hearing aides to hear the patter of tiny feet.
Still, there is hope that I will at least be able to remember my grandchildren’s names. Last week I saw a news post by the NY Times about the role that brain degeneration has plays on memory loss as we get older. (link
). It is nice to know that, someday, if I connect electrodes to my head every night at bedtime, I’ll be able to wake up remembering that the little voice who calls me grandma on the phone is not actually one of her stuffed animals pretend talking.
“Is this our last vacation day?”
It is a sign of our times that my daughter believes her day off is due to another teacher work day. Somewhere along the way we lost the reason for this day and the meaning behind service in general. In a culture that worships money and power (my daughter just told me she wants to spell her name like the singer Ke$ha), few of us recognize the value of doing something for the sake of altruism.
Yet, we are reminded today that there are some among us who still do exactly this. Our military personnel do not put themselves in harms’way for the pay, certainly. And anymore even glory is missing from the equation. The
truth is, we as a country need these men and women who recognize that service to country and fellow man is critical for protecting the freedoms we frequently take for granted.
I have written before about the pain of war…. A pain I feel that is no longer shared by the masses, but is accepted by those who least deserve it. They are the ones who know that freedom and liberty take work and sacrifice. They and their families pay for our ability to go to work unafraid, no matter what our job; to protest the 1% or the cost of obesity; to write our blogs and our tweets and our Facebook posts without fear of retaliation by our government or by those who hold opposing beliefs.
My daughter does not know what a victory garden is nor why it was ever necessary. She does not know how many servicemen and women are still fighting for us around the world (there were over 1.4 million active service members as of March 31, 2012 – in case you wondered: from the Statistical Information Analysis Division of the Department of Defense
.) Most importantly, until now she did not know that it has been a tradition on this day to remember and honor our dead service members at cemeteries around the U.S..
No, I tell her…this is not a vacation day; remembering takes work.Eulogy for a Veteran by Unknown
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the Gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the mornings hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.