Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Some national holidays, including Memorial Day, are touchy for me; while it is hard to find fault with a holiday like Independence Day, since gaining freedom from the British was pretty positive overall, holidays like Memorial Day are much more complex. 

On Memorial Day, we memorialize,"commemorate," or "call to remembrance" (thank you, M. Webster!) those whom have died while serving in the U.S. military. As someone who does not support war, and even more so the U.S. hand that is so quick to place itself in frays, I find Memorial Day a great opportunity to rehash discussions about issues surrounding war, such as the value of individual life versus the strength of a nation, the layers and layers of "history" on which conflict is often instigated by and rationalized with, and the importance of remembering.

Memorializing, or remembering, does not imply a value perception; I mean that we can remember, without attaching a thumbs-up or thumbs-down judgment. But when we add the action of "respecting" to holidays, we are changing things somehow. When we treat the men and women who died on the line of service with respect, what are we doing? By respecting their actions, aren't we admiring them? And by admiring their courage of putting their lives on the line, how can we separate this from the larger issue of supporting violence? Unfortunately, and I say unfortunately because I don't like to criticize people who may have had well-placed, albeit ignorant or na├»ve, intentions, I don't think this is possible. 

I don't think we should praise or admire people who died on the line of duty; putting oneself under the risk of harm may seem brave, and bravery is typically a quality that is admired, but I tell you that there are actions even more laudable, such as deciding to not fight because one feels that maybe one of the benefits of being human is the awareness of the sanctity of individual life. 

Now people might counter that in some cases, war is necessary in self-defense. I'm not much for letting people "step on me," but I think that this life-or-death circumstance is rarely the norm. I think that more often, the public is led to believe that it is at dire risk, though in fact it is not.

"Remembering" Day 2011: What is bravery? When, if ever, should people resort to physical violence? Why do people so often resort to life-risking behavior?, and what should be done to stimy this tendency? 

(As a post-note, I'd like to say that now I'm even starting to rethink Independence Day; after all, thousands died in the Revolution. I think I may just need to talk this one out with someone!)

1 comment:

Sanaz Arjomand said...

Most people (myself included, this year) just see Memorial Day as a long weekend. I'm glad that you're giving it the serious thought it deserves. You know I'd love to talk this over whenever!