Right, so today’s the day we celebrate and honor our armed forces for doing what no one else is willing or able to do: defend the country. I’m generally a pacifist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who put themselves in harm’s way on the order of someone who’s never actually been in combat. It’s not their fault that the war(s) we’re fighting isn’t (aren’t) just or right. They swore to go where they were called to go, and they have. Veterans and active military personnel alike deserve our respect. (As my aunt, who’s in the Navy, mentioned: supporting the troops does not mean necessarily supporting the war.)
It seems, however—and I’m guilty of this as much as the next person—that Memorial Day has become a day of parades and candy, hot dogs and burgers on the grill, pool parties and drinking, and fireworks when it really should be a day of mourning soldiers fallen in battle. To quote another website, “Memorial Day used to be a solemn day of mourning, a sacred day of remembrance to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Businesses closed for the day. Towns held parades honoring the fallen, the parade routes often times ending at a local cemetery, where Memorial Day speeches were given and prayers offered up. People took the time that day to clean and decorate with flowers and flags the graves of those the [sic] fell in service to their country.”
La Canada High School Band in the La Canada Memorial Day Parade in a past year;
I didn’t get a picture from this year. (Click photo for larger.)
I went to a parade this morning with my brother in the city where my parents live, which is affluent and semi-secluded, at least for a suburb of Los Angeles. I grew up here, and I even marched in the annual parade when I was in high school as part of the band. There are very few people in this city who join the military because they have to. That is, most kids around here go to community college or (even more likely) a four-year college and/or chill out and live on their parents money. It’s got them this far, after all, why not help them out a little further? It’s not a city of people joining the military in order to escape a worse situation or climb the social ladder.
Anyway, the point of me saying all that is that we, as a community in this small city, have an aging set of veterans and very few “fallen heroes/angels/soldiers” (insert whatever positive sacrificial noun you want after “fallen”), even if you expand the definition to include police officers and firemen killed in the line of duty. I’m not saying I’m any better about honoring the dead than any of the rest of this city with its fireworks and “Miss La Canada Flintridge” and preschoolers walking in the parade with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. (Seriously, there were like seven preschools represented in today’s parade.) Maybe we should think more seriously about what Memorial Day really represents?
What the hell. Pass me the ketchup and pickles.