Monday, May 30, 2011

Has Memorial Day holiday become more about the burgers than the soldiers?

I went and got myself a haircut Sunday, and while making sure to trim my sideburns evenly, the hair-stylist hit me with the question about my holiday plans.

“Are you going to barbecue?”

NOW THE STRAIGHTFORWARD answer to that question is, “I don’t know.” It will depend on the weather (if it is as bad Monday as it was Sunday, then I doubt it), and also the mood of my father – I’m likely to spend the bulk of the day checking up to make sure he and my step-mother are okay.

But there’s something about the question that annoyed me somewhat; and not just because it was a part of the mindless chit-chat that barbers feel the need to engage in.

It’s the idea that the reason we’re getting a holiday (one of the six major ones that results in an extra day off from work for many people, no mail delivery and a waiver of the rules requiring that we feed the parking meters) is so that we can drag out the coals and slap a few patties of ground beef (or some meat-like substance) over the heat.

We might as well re-name the holiday “Weber Grill Day.” The all-American vision of a charred hot dog or a bratwurst being stuffed into a bun for our consumption.

BE HONEST. THAT vision will be in more people’s heads than any vision involving military personnel.

Now I’m not about to preach for the military. I never served, and feel fortunate that I was never in a position where I felt forced to serve (which is what I honestly think of those young people now who use the military to come up with the money to pay for a college education in the future).

But I do have cousins and uncles who did stints in the military at various points of time during the past few decades – including some who served in Vietnam and during the first incarnation of an Iraq War (remember 1990?).

So while I happen to think that many military veterans organizations lay it on a little thick with the public ceremonies they conducted both during the weekend and on Monday (I understand Mayor Rahm Emanuel became a bit teary-eyed while attending such a ceremony in Chicago, while my relatives who served don’t go around telling ‘war’ stories), I find the apathetic viewpoint to be even more reprehensible.

INSOFAR AS MY own family, I am fortunate enough to be able to say that all of those members who served came back home and were able to have a life after their military service. We won’t tell tales on Monday of a lost brother or cousin and wonder ‘what might have been’ had he not been lost in combat. We’re fortunate in that regard, and I feel for those who can’t say the same.

But for those people whose biggest concern on Monday is making sure they get the right brand of barbecue sauce for whatever it is they try to cook, I hope I don’t run into many of those people.

Because my level of contempt may well just cause me to have an outburst that I likely will regret in the future. If anything, I believe that Monday shouldn’t be much of a holiday celebration at all.

It ought to be a day of quiet, introspective thought. We should have to contemplate, even if for just a few, brief moments, what our life and our society would be like if certain aspects had gone differently in the past. How much better off are we because of the sacrifices of past military action.

THERE HAVE BEEN times in our history when brute force has had to be used to uphold an ideal. The problem becomes when people think we’re celebrating the acts of brute force, rather than the ideals that our United States is based upon.

Of course, looking around me while I stopped off at a supermarket later in the afternoon on Sunday, it would seem to me that few people had any of this in mind. Finding the best price on pop, or deciding how thin to chop the onions so they don’t dissolve on the grill was the biggest concern.

Me, I’m hoping to have a moment to think about my cousins or uncles (whom I most likely will NOT actually see on Monday) who weren’t as fortunate as I was to have options besides the military. Today’s the day they deserve a moment of my attention.

That is, when I’m not munching on a burger.


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