Memorial Day is a strange holiday.
It began as a way to honor Union soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War. It was not much observed in the South for a long time, for reasons that seem clear. It was originally called Decoration Day, because it was a day to decorate the graves of those who had fallen. Later, it came to be a day on which to honor all the fallen in all wars.
Now, of course, it mostly marks the beginning of summer.
But we are in the midst of national observances of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and so it seems Memorial Day might take on new significance. But somehow I doubt that this will happen. We are not much into history these days, or so it seems to me.
I remember in my hometown in Michigan we had a Memorial Day parade to the local cemetery. It was often very hot. I was in the high school band and our woolen uniforms, mostly meant for the fall football season, were very hot and itchy. Inevitably, at least one band member fainted at the cemetery each year. And at least one member of the American Legion post unit that marched had already had too much to drink. He passed out, too.
At this Memorial Day, we are a nation fraught with division and a fair amount of gloom. Everything is about the economy, we’re told, and such good news as there is rarely manages to push the bad news out of our consciousness. We barely speak to each other across political lines, each side sure that success for the other one will be catastrophe. Soldiers are coming home from wars, but there is little celebration.
I admit to being puzzled about our predicament. For the first time in my lifetime, America’s courage and energy and ingenuity seem to be failing us. Some point fingers at Washington, the President and the Congress. They of course, point figures at each other. My guess is that there is enough responsibility to go around, and it belongs to all of us.
However, something’s got to give. Once again, I am thrown back on prayer. Can’t we all just pray together?