The origins of what we Americans celebrate today as Memorial Day are many. But almost since the first person decorated the grave of a Civil War dead soldier, the meaning behind the war veteran's death has been branded in such a way as to erase a common understanding of what it is we're honoring.
The closest common answer likely to be heard today is we're honoring the ultimate sacrifice of those Americans who died in combat. But as at least a dozen or more states officially honor Confederate war dead, we can't accurately say the federal holiday honors those who died fighting for our country.
Despite one of the more notable points of origin for Memorial Day, the May 1865 ceremony by Charleston's African-American community honoring more than 150 Union troops who died, the theme of justice overcoming the evil of slavery was soon eclipsed by Grand Army of the Republic's increasingly political image of Memorial Day honoring the lives of Union soldiers who died to preserve the union. Period.
As wars in which American's died became decidedly undemocratic in the makeup of not only those who died, but those who sacrificed by paying for wars, (let alone sending a family member to fight), Memorial Day" has been re-branded as an extension of the hollow cliche, *thank you for your service, or the equally meaningless bumper sticker, we support our troops.
It's trite, I believe, to focus on the Monday off from work or the family cookout as the real concern as to *Memorial Day's meaning. What I believe should be the focus is what it is we're really honoring as we remember our war dead.
If we, as Americans, can't honor something even greater than the ultimate sacrifice of war veterans, I believe the meaning of this day will further lost to nothing more than the marketing of endless wars.
What are your thoughts on Memorial Day?
As for what I believe this day to mean, those who've fought in combat universally agree they fought, not for a flag, or a country, but for those intimates who faced the same dangers, their fellow fighting men and women.
I honor the fallen and renew my commitment to end wars of convenience, profit and religious hatred.