Memorial Day. Started as Decoration Day to mark the gravesites of Civil War dead, it has grown into honoring the military members who have died in service to our country. It is also a day for parades, flags, fireworks, bbq’s, red white and blue sales, and the unofficial herald of the beginning of summer. Despite all of that, Memorial Day’s focus is too narrow.
People who voluntarily join the military do a job. For many, a part of that job is to fight and perhaps die in war. That is a risk they assume once they sign up. So, if they are to be honored, why wouldn’t we honor everyone who dies as a result of wasteful, violent action? What about those people who are murdered intentionally or die as a result of an avoidable accident? It’s the loss of a life of someone who’s doing their job.
Even more than military volunteers, why not specifically commend draftees? People who didn’t necessarily want to fight in a war but couldn’t successfully ignore or escape the draft. Their military death is really like murder on a national scale.
Why focus on the military at all? Many cultures celebrate the “Day of the Dead” when families and friends get together to remember those who have passed. Telling stories about grandparents, reliving histories, remembering people who have contributed to you genetically and probably influenced your way of life provides a rich experience. Be inclusive. Some ancestor’s sacrifices may have been just as meaningful as any sacrifices lost to war.
So, skip the parades and the sales but keep the family bbq. In addition to flags on military gravesites, plant flowers on all gravesites. Remember people who are gone but don’t glorify the military dead above all others because in doing so, it glorifies and “noble”izes war and wasteful sacrifice.