Louis P. Solomon
Memorial Day 2010 has come
and gone. Originally called
it is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's
service. In 1971 Congress established Memorial Day, a United States
Federal holiday, to be the last Monday in May in order to establish a
three day weekend.
Originally Decoration Day was to honor Union soldiers of
the American Civil War, but expanded after WWI, and subsequent wars.
Today it honors all Americans who have died in the service of the
I think it is a good idea to have such a national day of
remembrance. It causes the nation to stop the operations of their daily
lives and to reflect upon the people who over the centuries have fought
for us as a nation and to honor their memory. It is difficult for me to
feel focused personal grief. I do not have any direct members of my
immediate family who have fought and died in the nation's wars. There
are literally hundreds of thousands of families who are not so lucky.
They have lost fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, sons, daughters, and
other members of their extended family tree in the service of the
nation. They grieve personally with focus.
On Memorial Day I let myself ramble through the history
of the United States and think about the brave men and women who put
themselves on the line to perserve our way of life. This way of life has
broad and varied limits. As Americans we believe in many different
methods of living our lives. We represent many different political
views, religious beliefs, countries of origin, and historical
antecedents. Perhaps the common thread among Americans is their belief
that the future will hold a better life with more opportunities then was
lived by their parents, grandparents, etc. While this is not true in all
cases, the great preponderance of people living in this country have
prospered and enjoyed the freedom of thought and action which our fallen
heroes fought to protect and allow to continue to exist. And we have a
political and social history that says their sacrifices have not been in
vain. While there are many things in the society of the United States of
2010 that are not perfect, we have made advances in a large number of
areas. For example Civil Rights of today for all our citizens is part of
the law of the land. Equality between all Americans does not exist
everywhere, but it certainly is much closer to genuine equality than
(say) 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago. Education is universal; women
have made notable strides for equality of position and pay. Remember
that women only obtained the vote in 1920: less than 100 years ago.
I am sure that I could continue and paint a picture that
is rosy and looks only brighter with time. But that is not what I think
about. What distresses me is when I think about the men and women who
have fought and died for our country trying to make it better and more
egalitarian. I ask myself if the politicians who are our elected
representatives think of this when they enact legislation. I know that
politicians are speakers on Memorial Day at various celebrations. They
lay wreaths, give moving speeches, and in general show their support for
our honored dead. I expect that. But, what about their actions after the
day is over?
One of the characteristics of the men and women who died
fighting for the United States was the support for their fellows. Read
the accounts of the Medal of Honor winners. The accounts of their
willingness to try to protect their buddies are impossible to read
without being moved by their selflessness. Listen to the tales of the
men and women who enlisted to help protect the country in time of need.
Now ask yourself: do you see that devotion and bravery in our political
representatives? Are they ready to risk loss of their political career
to enact something which they know is good for the country?
I am certain that there have been political
representatives that have fought for legislation which was good for the
American people as a whole. Read John F. Kennedy's “Profile in Courage,”
as an example. But it is my distinct impression that politicians
generally take the posture that remaining in office is their primary
duty to the country: a posture that I find highly questionable. Does
this posture coincide with what is honored on Memorial Day? I think not.
Memorial Day honors those who have fought and died for
this country. This is entirely fitting and proper, and I am glad to have
such a day. But I am uneasy and concerned that our political
representatives who give such wonderful speeches on Memorial Day do not
honor the fallen heroes through their actions. There are politicians who
fight and sometimes die (figuratively) in support of the good of the
American Dream. But it is my impression that there are not many, and
that saddens me and causes me to worry about the future of the United
States if we, as a people, do not express ourselves forcibly at the
ballot box. At all levels the political structure in the United States
there are politicians who have acted; watch them and express yourselves
at the ballot box. Vote for them, or against them, based upon what they
have done for us, the citizens of the country, and not what they have
said on Memorial Day.
© May 2011 Louis P.
Solomon and Maryland 20878®