^ Memorial day, 1868 : freed former slaves honor the dead who sacrificed to make them free citizens
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What does Memorial Day mean to us ? Surely you already know what this holiday means to the nation’s politicians. they honor the nation’s war dead. So do we; but in doing so, we only skim the surface of a profound social deep. To us, memorial day means…memory. The past. That which cannot be undone because it is done.
Every society must decide what use it will make of its past : because it has happened, and we are ell aware that it happened, and much of it we do not like. Our society does not pike war, we do not favor seeing our sons and daughters die in battle far away or in the streets of downtown. Much that has happened we are glad of; but none of that can trump that which we wish had not happened at all, and in remembering, we resolve to overcome its happening again.
That, i think, is how our society uses the past today. America is a nation founded on doing better than it has done. Continuous improvement is what we are about; thus we use the past as a kind pf marker : this is how we scored yesterday, tomorrow we must score higher.
The politicians will say that we honor our war dead and thank them for their sacrifice. That is the easy part, the obvious. Less obvious, an d certainly more difficult, is to resolve that never again will we deliver our young heroes and heroines headlong into combat. Never again will we readily place our nation in the line of fire that besets so much of the world that our ancestors -=- so runs the mythology and, yes, the fact — left behind for a better land where civil peace accompanies and guides the opportunity to accomplish your dreams.
And if our nation today seems impeded by economic dislocation, chaffed by social prejudices, intimidated by unregulated guns, set adrift by division by class, what do these portend for Dream nation ? Do we continue to move forward, singly and together, or have we turned upon ourselves to find blame instead of friendship and alienation rather than welcome diversity ? And if this ?
that is what Memorial Day ultimately means to me. Not just the heroics of yesterday which we gave thanks to, but whether or not we step up, exchange that kind of heroics for the greater heroism of building a society that prospers together and diversely, and in the process become better people than we have been.
And while we are at it : let us never forget that the honoring of Memorial day began after our Civil war and was the brainchild of freed slaves celebrating those died so that they could be free and full citizens of the nation they did so much to build.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere