Monday, May 28, 2012

The Sentiment of Memorial Day

It is not my purpose here to supplant, but to supplement, my Memorial Day posting of last year, which received a good response then and continues now.  My sentiment remains that this is a day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of our country, and has little to do with living veterans or those currently in service in the armed forces, other than to understand that they know, often far better than others without that experience, of the true meaning of that sacrifice.  This is a day to remember the fallen of our wars, and to consider the feelings of the families of those who remain and mourn, for every day is Memorial Day for them.

We have had ample opportunity to express our grief and awe of the noble sacrifice of those who gave their lives on the field of battle.  (Are these words too corny or jingoistic for your enlightened sensibilities?  Then move on, and do not bother with the rest of this post, for you are definitely unclear on the concept.)  But we are distracted by our focus on the here and now, with our economy staggering and sputtering, trying to make sense of what passes for news (or lack thereof) of our condition, with a political campaign still heating up and which promises to try to divide our population still further along class and social lines, all the better to gain political advantage at the expense of national unity.  The painful lessons which should reinforce our sense of patriotism works against the interest of so many in our media and academies, so they are shunted aside.  If our history has not been revised into some constant pounding of a minor chord of imperialism and racism, then it is simply passed over in favor of some contrived crise du jour.

Cemetery of the fallen of the 4th Marine Division, Iwo Jima (Mount Suribachi in left background) one of several such cemeteries of the Marines and other units in that battle

So to my previous post I would add the words spoken in the closing days of World War II during the dedication of the cemeteries on Iwo Jima, by Rabbi Roland B Gittelsohn, the first Jewish chaplain assigned to the Marine Corps:
Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores.  Here lie officers and enlisted men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor . . . together.  Here are Protestants, Catholics and Jews together.  Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color.  Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed.  Among these men there is no discrimination.  No prejudices.  No hatred.  Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.
And to those who cannot or will not consider the purpose for the commemoration, what better words than those of W H Auden, in his Epitaph for an Unknown Soldier:
To save your world you asked this man to die;
Would this man, could he see you now, ask, ‘Why?
Do not be among those who enjoy the day off from work with nary a thought to those who died for their benefit.  Particularly abjure the ‘Monster Memorial Day Blowout’ sales and the other base attempts to cheapen the day.  Dwell instead on the sacrifice of those who gave their lives, and of the immense ripple effect through the lives of their families.

Be honored that we have had men (and some women) such as this.  While it has been said that there are no good wars, there are good warriors, and I have been blessed to know some of them.  God bless them all in their eternal rest.

Update:  Scott Johnson of Power Line does us a service today by reprinting the Memorial Day 2007 Wall Street Journal column by Peter Collier.  In part:
[I]n a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration.  We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away.  And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.
It is well worth your time to read this short piece in total.

My Memorial Day posting for 2013.
... and 2014.

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