First, let me share with you the process I go through to realize I want to write a blog because I do not have a “blog urge” that often.
Usually, this process starts with a very subtle, almost unnoticed “noticing.” That is how this blog started some time ago.
It started with a noticing about Memorial Day – nothing big – just a little tickling in my brain.
At first, I noticed that something had changed about Memorial Day. When I was a child, Memorial Day was a big family event. It was the official beginning of summer and the first holiday of the season. It always started with a visit to the graves of our ancestors. We would arm ourselves with shovels, picks, pruners, plants and anything that might be needed to visit the family graves. It was important that we clean up around the graves to show respect and let them and others know that our ancestors and our family had not been forgotten. While we pulled weeds, tended and planted new flowers (no plastic flowers here!), Mother, especially, and Daddy too, although he was less of a story teller, would tell stories about each relative, her and his lives, the wisdom they had taught and the funny and silly things they had done. I loved the stories and would add pieces I had heard and experienced over the years.
My favorite, of course, was Grandma Reed (I’m sure it wasn’t just because I was her favorite). My memories of her are still vivid and tender at my now 82 years. We always took our time with this process, working, talking, resting – it was all one process of respect. I don’t remember it ever being said directly and it was always very clear that we all knew that we would not be here if it were not for ancestors. They helped give us a sense of process, time, place and belonging – all these are important for children to have deep in our being.
Sometime, before noon, we packed everything up, admired our handiwork and went home to wash up, feeling deep connections to those who had gone before and given us so much – indeed, passed life and our heritage on to us.
We then cleaned up and packed up what Mother had prepared earlier (I don’t know when she did all of this – sometimes I helped – and she always produced the most wonderful, gourmet picnics!). Daddy would grumble a bit about Mother always having to make enough to feed an army and we all knew that it was his way of saying how proud he was that she did just that.
We then would go have a picnic down by the Illinois River with the rest of the living members of our family. Daddy had three younger brothers and all that food came in handy. The highlight of the day was Grandpa’s cooked-custard homemade ice cream, made in a hand-turned ice cream freezer. He had been crippled as a child and had a limp. So, while the rest of us ran around like crazy, swam, looked for mussels and crawdads, fished and settled in lounge chairs, Grandpa made ice cream. It was an unbearably long, painful process as Leslie (my youngest uncle) and I, “the young ones,” waited for the beaters to come out so the ice cream could “set” and freeze. Then we got to lick the ice cream off of the beaters. Oh, my, they tasted so good – so, so good.
I don’t remember the military ever being mentioned on Memorial Day – even at church – unless someone had a relative who had fought somewhere.
The day was to honor our ancestors.
Yet, Memorial Day seems to have become a military holiday.
The same was true for the Fourth of July. When I was young, it was never about the military. It was about our Independence. It was about founding a democracy – – a country where all were created equal and had equal rights. It was about this wonderful social experiment which was America not based on royalty, hierarchy or inequality – with freedom and justice for all. We have inalienable rights. The Fourth of July was about ideals. It was not about fighting.
Again, I don’t ever remember the military as a group being mentioned. Yet, in the last two years, the Fourth of July seems to have become a military holiday. What is happening?
Is this change planned or like a hundredth monkey?
I began to ask myself and others – “Isn’t Veterans Day enough?”
Of course we should honor our military – living and dead. Yet, at the expense of not honoring our ancestors and our values on those other two days?
Then, I became a bit sick about our two political parties trying to outdo one another which one could mention our military more. What is going on?
I agree with the feeling of horror about the way our vets are treated and want that changed.
I want all service appreciated whether military or not.
But, why are our police beginning to look and act more and more like an invading army and less and less like the men in the neighborhood?
I know that some believe in the economic importance of a military industrial complex AND I would rather boost our economy with new life-giving technologies for the planet.
I don’t want to live in a militarized society and I don’t want to elect officials who plan to be demigods.
Somehow, all these issues seem related. Let Memorial Day be Memorial Day and the Fourth of July be the Fourth of July.
Let’s get on with life and not glamorize war in our schools or on our streets.