We are a few days away from observing Memorial Day, which is observed every year on the last Monday in May thanks to the National Holiday Act of 1971 ensuring three-day weekends for federal workers and, to my way of thinking, which also served to diminish the stature of all the holidays in favor of providing more recreational opportunities for federal workers and, thereby, also increasing the flow of tourism dollars across the nation.
Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on May 30, 1868. On that day flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge or observe the holiday, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war).
For many years Memorial Day was properly observed in communities across the country and followed the practice of placing flowers or flags on the graves of deceased military men and women or holding memorial services in cemeteries. In rural America, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and their auxiliaries have worked hard to keep the traditions of memorializing and honoring the war dead.
But sadly, fewer and fewer people know, understand or care about the significance of this and other patriotic observances.
There are probably many reasons for this. A small and continually diminishing proportion of the population is serving or has served in the military. Accompanying this is the smaller than ever and diminishing number of politicians at the national level who have any significant military service or experience.
But most recently, many of the most senior elected officials in the country seem uncomfortable with the United States having the most powerful military forces in the world and are actively or passively pursuing courses that will significantly diminish the military aspect of our overall national power.
I understand that having a strong, superior military is not an end in itself. However, it is necessary to protect the people and interests of the United States around the world. We have been criticized for trying to play the “policeman” of the world and a significant amount of that has come from inside our country.
I have heard many criticisms of the wars in southwest Asia. I also read an interesting perspective on the war in Iraq in which the Iraqi analyst observed you have to ask the Iraqi people themselves if that war was worth it to them.
The jury is also still out on Afghanistan, the mess in Syria, the role of Russia and Iran in supplying arms to Al Qaida and other nefarious groups in that region, and expanding Islamic terrorism throughout the world.
And the jurors are really asking a lot of questions about the Benghazi Consulate attack in Libya. Have you noticed how the Arab Spring that was so loudly touted by our leaders was not a season of rebirth and renewal, but one of regression and repression?
I cannot help but ponder as we approach Memorial Day about the four Americans who died in Benghazi and how the “facts” initially reported were spun to tell us that some obscure video that hardly anyone had seen or reacted to was somehow the impetus for a spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand.
It is apparent to me that the ambassador and the other people were unintentionally sacrificed by an administration who thought that additional protective measures would send someone the “wrong signal” and also had no plan or capability to defend our personnel.
I’m ashamed to think that perhaps our political and military leaders didn’t even try to save our fellow countrymen. To me and many people I know, this is beyond unconscionable.
We are doing a very poor job of teaching our children the real facts about our history and our role in the world. Without an understanding of our history — both the good and the bad — they will not be able to analyze and understand world events. And without that understanding, they will be like sheep that will blindly elect and follow their leaders no matter what.
Why do we constantly overemphasize the “bad” of some of our actions and ignore the good of so many more of the positive actions our country has taken for centuries?
In 1863, President Lincoln closed out his dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, Pa., with these words, “... that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
In 2012, President Obama referred to Benghazi as a “speed bump.” And then in her testimony before a congressional committee this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton observed heatedly, “What difference does it make?”
Maybe this obvious contrast in attitudes really explains why Memorial Day and so many other traditions and aspects of our once proud and respected culture have found their way into the trash can of liberal-progressive political philosophy and practices. If this is to change, we must elect leaders who do more than simply go through the motions of supporting our country and the military.
It would be fantastic to have some leaders who actually believed in God and Country and then put that belief into meaningful actions!
I’m certain nearly all of you have relatives and friends who died in service to our country. Please remember them and their sacrifices on Monday, and throughout the year, too.
Well, that’s what’s been on my mind.