Use today to make difference for tomorrow
Just a few days until Memorial Day. We often think of it as the start of our summer activities. No more cold weather. Instead, vacations, gardens and outdoor sports. But underneath the hype of breaking out of the confinement of winter is the sobering lesson of Memorial Day: breaking out of oppressions of the past that led to war.
We here in the USA began to honor those who lost their lives fighting for freedoms as far back as the Civil War. Even before the war ended, women across the south decorated the graves of their fallen sons with flowers. In May 1868, Gen. John A Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. Through the years, the day originally called Decoration Day has evolved into various ceremonies with parades, picnics, prayers and church services.
Here in Indiana, we often link Memorial Day with the running of the Indianapolis 500 automobile race which starts off with song and salute to those who died in wars.
How often do we observe Memorial Day with more than these rather “decorative” trappings of respect for those who gave the supreme sacrifice for their country?
Most wars or conflicts are caused by some group wanting to dominate another group, be it in countries, tribes or races. In other words, we fight wars to secure freedom for human beings and their way of life.
The Civil War was a clash between states that believed in slavery and those states that wanted to end it in our country. The southern states preferred to leave the federation that wanted to make it illegal to practice enslavement of African-Americans.
Through the centuries, empires have tried to force others to conform to the norms of dictatorial rulers. In the Second World War, the Nazi party and fascist leaders took freedoms away from millions of Jewish people, gypsies and folks they declared inferior to their super race. Victoriously, the allied forces fought back.
How much do we stop to think that those men and women who gave up their very lives did it so others could be free to live good lives? Maybe we need to expand beyond the token decorations of cemeteries and the pronouncements made at ceremonies. Do we honor the lives of those who died in war by living to protect what they fought for?
In our country, we have recently been reawakened to the injustices our systems sometime allow to mar and limit the freedom of some of our citizens. These are not pleasant realizations. These are unsettling times. Let us take this moment of trial to do our part to honor those who fought and died to assure freedom to all.
We know what one hour or even one minute of life means to each of us. Think of the sacrifice made by those whose died in service to save our country from tyranny. Surely it is our duty to ponder where we stand today on equal freedom for all. What are we willing to risk so that all Americans have equal respect, opportunities and protection? After we have been honest with our conscience, what are we doing about the inequities we see?
Most of us will never be asked to give up our whole lives for a cause that helps others, but we can at least improve our attitudes and practices and step forward in honor of the fallen heroes of the past. We can make a difference today in what our country looks like tomorrow.
Let’s do it for those who no longer can.