Remembering Memorial Day.
I want to thank my Dad for taking the time to teach me about the things that really matter. In the case of holidays like Memorial Day, he left me with a strong sense of patriotic duty. I remember he would haul my butt down to the cemetery in Reynoldsville, Pa for the ceremony in remembrance of our country's fallen heroes. At the time, I mostly saw a lot of old men in uniform. I didn't grasp what it all stood for, like communion Sunday at church; but, because of those childhood experiences I have a lasting memory of substantial things, rather than only cotton candy and carnivals.
Memorial Day is something of a patriotic sacrament in a way. We place our American flags, those of us that still do, not giving it much thought beyond that any more.
It was Mark Twain who wrote
“In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.”
Twain well understood, that like me and my post modern first world kids, it is difficult to see, touch, and feel the sacrifice those brave patriots made on our behalf. While the USA has its shortcomings and problems, it is impossible to deny, unless completely ignorant, that we have something special here. EVERY country has its sins, but few if any national entities equal the well thought out and executed vision of our own founding fathers.
Simply and boldly put, there really is no equal to this nation's vision of equality, freedom, and justice for all made possible by the shed blood of men and women long forgotten. Perhaps, the most honorable and heroic among us being the Unknown Soldier who sits in a place of great honor in our fight against tyranny and oppression.
Don't believe me about America? Ask the old Russian, Lebanese, German, Chinese, Cambodian, North Vietnamese, Burundi, Iraqi and Irish immigrants; just to name a few, who grace our hallowed shores. Ask them why their parents and grandparents came here. Ask any immigrant, legal or illegal, why they are here, and ask any substantive honest American, the few that remain, why they are not clambering to ships and planes and borders to emmigrate to another part of the world.
There are things that matter and things that don't. Memorial Day actually matters because it allows us to venerate and remember the thousands upon thousands of people who's lives, cut short by bullets, bombs, and bayonets spilled their life blood on the ground as a sacrifice on the sacred altar of liberty.
Check out the above graph from Business Insider's Jeremy Bender on May 28, 2014. It gives us a more visual concept of the sheer number of veterans who gave their lives for their country and it is staggering.
Some well meaning citizens speak of beating our swords into plowshares. I think we all, and especially our veterans, want to see that day. Except, for one small problem. That problem is evil, and the embodiment of evil is tyranny and slavery.
We aren't sure who first said,
"Those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who do not".
This is a powerful statement seeming to contradict the old scripture "And they will beat their swords into plowshares". Like much of wisdom, both statements are true, and that is something our founders well understood. Meanwhile, the dumbed down masses of modern American society, having sucked at the milky breast of liberty's sacrificial patriots for far too long, have failed to discern it.
The big problem is "evil", or simply put, the absence of good. Most people no longer believe in "evil" as an entity existing in and of itself, so let's just call it "badness". Those who love to quote Isaiah 2:4 as a reason to turn in our guns fail to discern the context of that ancient scripture, and fail to discern the nature of the double edged sword of wisdom. As long as "badness" and "bad people" exist in this world, they will lord themselves over the helpless masses.
Badness exists, therefore war is a necessity. I'm not saying all war is justified, much of it is not, I'm saying war and death are the only means we currently possess to free ourselves from the tyrannical death grip of those who wish to enslave us. Believe me, there are plenty of enemies, foreign and domestic, who would jump at the chance.
Coming full circle, that is what Memorial Day is about. It is about those who chose to do the hard thing and gave their precious one shot lives for an idea, the greatest idea of all, liberty. Every epic novel, story, myth, poem, movie, and song since the beginning of time can be boiled down to a few basic ingredients: love, liberty, and life. Whether mourning the loss of, dreaming of the getting of, or celebrating the attainment of, the wordsmiths of time and memorial have spoken into existence the inner human cry for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So we say, "Happy Memorial Day" smiling through the tears as our hearts cry out to God that his kingdom might some day come on earth as it is in heaven. That some day we may (those of us who choose to) beat our swords into plow shares...when and where we can't actually find a plowshare for sale. In my opinion that is just a metaphor for lasting peace anyway. One more poem about the human longing for freedom and the sacrifice necessary to attain it.
The blood of all those across this vast world who have fought for God and country cries from the ground, "remember us and never forget lest you lose what we have given you in the giving of our very lives." Happy Memorial Day, America.