Memorial Day has become the sales and barbecue extravaganza that kicks off the summer season here in the US.
And it has also, erroneously, but with good intent, become a day for much ‘support our troops’ and ‘honor our veterans’ rhetoric. But that’s not what it was established to be. It was established immediately after the US Civil War, and was originally called Decoration Day. The purpose, then as now, was to honor our war dead – and up until the time of World War I, the southern US states did not use that designated date to honor their own Civil War dead – they chose their own separate dates (& some of them still have separate dates to honor those killed in the Civil War). After WWI, the purpose was intentionally changed to honor all American soldiers that were killed in any war, anywhere. Far too high a number. And sadly, one that keeps on increasing as men of power continue their own quests to maintain – and extend – their power. War, for the kings and presidents, has never been for any ideal – that’s only what the young men, and women, sent out to battle are led to believe.
We should all enjoy the holiday – because we are here, and we can – but we should also never lose sight of what it really means, either.
In “Flanders Fields” John F. Prescott
Image from “McCRAE, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 24, 2015, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mccrae_john_14E.html.