For Americans, today is Memorial Day. A day intended to remember and appreciate the sacrifices that men and women have made so that the citizens of the United States have rights that include free speech, freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial…and so much more.
We are indeed the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” but the U.S. is not exactly a well-oiled machine, now is it?
These days, both of our major political parties seem to have forgotten that pushing their agenda and achieving victory over the other party isn’t supposed to be the goal. Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people” doesn’t really fit in today’s political climate.
The fact that ridiculously big money is funding candidates willing to short circuit and kill issues based on what the donors want moves us quietly and frighteningly close to an oligarchy. The 99 vs 1% isn’t a myth–wealth inequality is exploding–and it is even more extreme than most Americans are aware, with the reality being that “both wealth and income are super-concentrated in the top 0.1%.”
Though we are blessed to live in a country with wonderful freedoms, America needs its citizens to stand up–like they have done time and again before–and act to fight for justice and real freedom.
You may read this as a digression from my honoring Memorial Day, but it is really a tribute to it. We owe it to those who fought and died for this country to be active, informed, caring, voting citizens.
The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.
~Lyndon B. Johnson
The following is my Memorial Day post from 2013. My sentiments there are perhaps a little less feisty, but they still hold true for me. I hope that you will find it worth a few minutes more of your time.
On This, We Can Agree
Originally published 5.27.13
Most people recognize that today’s America is extremely polarized. Hostile camps are set up on pretty much every issue, to the point where our government can’t even work together to solve very solvable problems, and our population is all too comfortable denigrating one another’s views. But on this—I hope, I pray—we can agree: we thank and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. And we are grateful to all those who serve.
Memorial Day was created after the Civil War to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that war. (And, of course, it has evolved to honor all Americans who have died in military service.) But perhaps its origin should be a lesson to us today—that extremely opposite sides can come together to honor the sacrifices made for this blessed country of ours.
I don’t mean to be simplistic about this at all. War is certainly not just good vs evil. But no matter what the gray areas are of any given conflict, we must always remember that we have people who say, “I will risk my life for this”—and the “this” is ultimately the freedom we Americans enjoy—warts and all.
My dad served in World War II. My father-in-law was present at the Cuban Missile Crisis. I never got to know a cousin of mine because he died in Vietnam when I was just a baby. I have friends and neighbors who bravely serve and have served. Hundreds of thousands of people who don’t even know me are taking care of business on my behalf.
Thank you all.
I pray that as a country we strive to be better people every day, and that we grow in acceptance, respect, and love for one another. To me, anything less is a dishonor to those who have given us their all.