Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

I had a lovely weekend these past three days.

Chris and I worked very hard at reorganizing our study - including putting a new desk in which I have been wanting for a couple of years now. It looks GREAT. For any of you who have ever been to our house, or even more, stayed in our study (which can act as a second guest room), there is so much more space now - it's lovely and makes me very happy.

I'll take some pictures and put them up soon.

The rest of the time was just nice and relaxing down-time with my husband.

I'm afraid Memorial day itself was not much more than just a nice extra day off for me. I had an interesting experience on Friday. I was getting ready for work and listening to NPR (as I always do in the morning - as biased as they are, they do at least provide okayish news coverage). They had a story on there about this man who's mother had died and he was spending time with his father and found out his father had this tradition (that he knew nothing about prior to that time) of going to the graves of every person who had deeply impacted his life and decorating them with flowers.

It got me thinking on a couple of veins...

1. Is it just me or is Memorial Day in and of itself an almost pointless holiday in this country? Before anybody gets offended by that statement, let me clarify! I don't mean that it should not be observed (in fact I believe the opposite) but that the day itself does not seem to be utlized as it was intended - a day of remembrance and celebration of America's troops who have died in service.

I think it is very sad that it feels so pointless to me, but that is simply what I have observed. I have seen more people utilize it as a general memorial day for those who have died than I have seen the holiday used in memory for troops. And honestly, I really see more people going on picnics and having barbeques without any mention of memorial related ideas (troops or otherwise) than I see people actually using the day as any kind of memorial.

Why is this? It can't have always been that way. What has caused the seeming disconnect between the purpose of the day and what I see occur?

2. The story about the specific man commemorating these individuals who have impacted him by decorating their graves on memorial day was very interesting to me. I think it's a neat story, but I got to thinking about how disconnected I feel with such a story.

I realized upon reflection that this man must have lived in the same town his whole life. He talked about putting flowers on the grave of this person who helped him when he was a teenager and that person who guided him in his first job and another individual who taught him to drive and let him borrow his car for dates......

The whole concept is essentially foreign to me. Not that I haven't experienced the help of so many random people in my life, but that all those people would be in the same town. Buried in the same cemetary. If I were to go put flowers on the graves of those who have impacted my life thus far, I wouldn't even know what country to begin in never mind what cemetary!

I do think the idea of taking the time to honor those individuals is a good one. But how to do so?


Almamater said...

Oh, you mean Memorial day wasn't established by the retail industry to give everyone an excuse to go out and get a Memorial Day bargain at the numerous sales?!?

If it is any consolation, The Prof took the children down to the Capitol building for a special patriotic men's barbershop choir concert and we watched part of the PBS memorial day special from D.C. (VERY cheesy, but at least appropriately themed!)

Jimmie said...

Memorial Day was initially established after the Civil War in the late 1860's.

It slowly fell out of importance as those who lost immediate family members were lost themselves or chose to just let the memory fade.

By the early 20th century, it was just a formality of an observation.

After World War I, it became an important day once again, as almost every person in the United States at least knew of someone who died in Europe during the Great War.

After World War II, it again spiked in importance as, like the Civil War, every family had at least a cousin, uncle or friend who was killed in the War.

But now days? Sure there were 58,256 men and women killed in the Vietnam War, but even a person who was inducted into the Army at 18 years old on the day Saigon fell (April 30, 1975) is 51.

Their deaths are distant to us today.

We have lost 4,200 so far in Iraq and about 430 in Afganistan. With a population of 300,000,000+, that is a fairly miniscule .00151% of the population. (As compared to .32% of the population in World War II, 212 times larger in scope)

Of course, those 4500+ men and women lost in defense of freedom leave behind families and friends. And that makes the Holiday important for them.

Amber said...

Can't wait to see your reorganized study! (Thanks for the desk, by the way.)

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