|Although the actual history of Memorial Day – meaning the way it came about and why May 30 was its designated day before becoming part of the holiday weekend merger thing, placing it on the last Monday of May – can be found easily enough online, the actual meaning of Memorial Day may be worth ponderingA memorial, as we well know, is something commemorative of some person, persons, or event. Memorial Day, in this country, is set aside and acknowledged as a day in memory of all the members of our armed forces who lost their lives, in any war. Unlike Veterans Day – which acknowledges all service members, living or dead, who have served in the armed forces, whether during peacetime or wartime – and unlike all the other days throughout the year that ostensibly acknowledge our living troops in one way or another, Memorial Day is meant to be far more solemn, addressing the very unfortunate legacy of lost lives.It is really hard to speak of Memorial Day as a day on which to celebrate, yet many people choose to take advantage of having that Monday off to celebrate the coming of what could be called the “barbecue season,” or the official segue into summer. And since we really don’t want any “How to spend your days off” monitors in this country, thank goodness there is no one out there officially playing “Big Brother” and banning barbecues or putting the nix on getting a jump on the next season up to bat. Perhaps, in some strange way, those who have served in the armed forces over the years – and even lost their lives during that service – have enabled us to keep those little freedoms – such as having a backyard barbecue on a solemn occasion – if we so choose.
Although death is quite a part of life, and war is unfortunately also quite a part of life, then abrupt, harsh, even painful and unnecessary death is also a part of life. If we could just find that magic or special key to unlock the door to peace with all our brothers on this earth, no man (generic) would ever feel inclined to lift his hand or weapon against another. But that is not the kind of world we live in at this time. We all know it. Some of us perhaps don’t care, because some may feel the need to fight. Neighbors fight neighbors. Friends fight friends. Strangers fight strangers. The plan, I suppose, is to “win.” And when countries or parts of countries do it, it’s called war.
The really sad yet amazing thing is that there continues to be those individuals who will step up to what they believe is their responsibility or duty; they will join the military, march off to war, and never return home alive. No one plans that outcome. No one even wants to presume that outcome. And certainly, no one wants that outcome. Yet such individuals are willing to do what is asked of them, and what apparently is needed of them, just as many, many others before them – across the years – have always done. Even if it cost them their very lives.
Everyone tells me I live in my own little world. If I really did, my world wouldn’t necessarily be free from struggles – which help us grow – but it would be free from hatred (as we know the meaning of the word) and war. I don’t know if everyone in this country would want to join me in that world (it would definitely be big enough to accommodate all), but I do know that those in some other countries might not necessarily be ready to join me in such a hate- and war-free world – mainly because that would more or less mean that we would all accept each other and have no intention of making others believe, see or do things our way, which is usually done by forcing our beliefs or our ways on others against their will, which can only lead to ongoing enmity and animosity, which always leads to eventual hate, which leads right back to where we all are today: Us vs. Them; These People against Those People. All people cannot be right if all people think differently. Or can they be?
Sure; I know it says in Ecclesiastes (and a certain very popular song) that there is a time for everything: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. And perhaps many people kind of take that as support for hating and wars. I don’t. If we took everything in the Bible at absolute face value, there would always be a lot of smiting going on, and I personally don’t believe that that’s what God had in mind for us. At least not these days, as we evolve and let go of other things, such as slavery, that we cannot accept or condone, and yet they seem to be sanctioned in the Bible.
Anyway, as someone once told me, man will never accept peace as a normal mode of living until he has been thoroughly and repeatedly convinced that peace is best for his material welfare. In the meantime, without glorifying war, and until everyone can choose a world free of hate and filled with peace, we can appreciate those who have given their all when it was asked of them. I don’t think it’s asking too much of us to take one minute or more out of our lives to reflect on all they gave when they answered the call to do their part.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her firstname.lastname@example.org.