Monday, May 25, 2009

Things That Chap My Ass About Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a US Holiday

This holiday was first known as Decoration Day, and it began as a day to honor Union soldiers who died during the US Civil War, first observed by order of the commanders of the Grand Army of the Republic as set forth in the following missive:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigil that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldiers and sailors widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander in Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this Order effective.

Memorial day was enacted to commemorate the men and women who have died while serving our country in uniform. The very heart of this day is that third paragraph, the one that reads:

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Memorial day is a day that we who served remember those who fell. And, hopefully, Memorial Day is a day that those who have not served also remember those who have fallen in their defense.

That list, of the uniformed dead, grows larger each year.

There are many to remember. Some died as heroes. Some died as cowards. Many died just doing their jobs, just doing what they believed in. Some of those deaths ring down through history, heavy with meaning. Some are long forgotten, even by us, their deaths meaningless and wasted. However they died, for whatever reason, this is the day that we Americans remember those who gave everything so that the rest of us might be free.

No matter how they died, this is their day.

This is the day that we honor our fallen.


Or, rather it should be.

Those who don’t remember the fallen today do not bother me, for if other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall not.  And that’s enough.

No, what bothers me this day are those who see this holiday as just another opportunity. Those selfish and self centered sons of bitches who have not forgotten the true meaning of this day, but simply don’t care.  I’m talking about those who would use this day to further their own agenda.

Oh yes, sure, I’m talking about the sales and the promotions – where the profits go into the pockets of the retailers and have nothing whatsoever to do with the real purpose of this day. Sure, I’m talking about those who profit on the corpses of those who died to keep them free.

And yes, of course, I’m talking about the gratuitous self aggrandizing politicians. Who bloviate about service and sacrifice and then go back and vote to cut military funding unless it’s for a weapons program built in their district, or to leave Gitmo open, or to “stay the course.” Yeah, those selfish assholes. Sure I’m talking about those people.

And Yes, exactly, I’m talking about the Beltway Generals, the ones who’ve never seen combat. The ones who think sacrifice is having to ride First Class instead of via private military jet.  The ones who believe that facing adversity is not getting new carpeting in their Pentagon Offices this year.  And that duty is golfing with that Colonel they don’t like instead spending the afternoon in a hotel with their secretary. Those who remember that rank hath its privileges but forget that it also has its responsibilities, while they send the rest of us into the meat grinder ill equipped and ill prepared.  Yes, I’m talking about those people. Sure.

And yes, I am talking about the defense contractors, those profiteering bastards who’ll sponsor picnics and flyovers and full page ads today – in order to advertize their own product line, the same substandard crap they charged us ten times too much for and delivered a year late and only partially functional. Certainly, I’m talking about them.

But what I’m really talking about is this:

Remember, Jesus died in the Service too. Memorial day is about honoring his glory.

This message was printed on a sign in front of a Baptist Church in Butte, Alaska.

You know what? Wrong. Today is not about honoring Jesus, unless Jesus wore a uniform and served in the armed forces of the United States of America – and that sign just plain pisses me off. No, really, you have no idea just how much that sign and its message piss me off. It’s the selfishness of it, it’s the self-centeredness of it, it is the single-mindedness of it, and it is the utter disdain and disrespect and disregard for those in uniform who have fallen so that that pitiful shitty inbred asshole church could put that message on that sign that just utterly and completely pisses me the bloody fucking hell off.

My urge was to drive over the sign repeatedly until there was nothing left, then pour gasoline on it and torch the ruble, and then hunt down the priest, minister, padre, shaman, or whatever the hell he’s called, who put that goddamned message up in the first place, and kick his fucking ass.  

I didn’t, I drove on, fuming.

And I’m still fuming.

That sign brought to the forefront something that has always irritated me, and something that has gotten worse and worse in the last couple of years. I’m talking about those who want to lump their bullshit in with military service.  I’m talking about those people who today will seize the microphone to talk about 911 victims, or starving kids in Africa, or AIDS victims, or the dying polar bears, or Jesus.

Today is not about any of those things. Not even Jesus.

And if my opinion pisses you off, so be it. 

If you find my words offensive, too damned bad.

Because you see, I am offended. 

I’m offended by those selfish and self centered Americans who would pay lip service to Memorial Day solely in order to further their own agenda. These people, and acts like the ones I described above, dishonor and disregard and disrespect those who died in uniform. 

Better they should forget us, rather than spit in our faces.



 Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldiers and sailors widow and orphan.


  1. Gee, so many things chap your ass about so many things.

    But in all seriousness, you're dead on point. This day is to remember those who died in the service of their country. That's it. Those who try to twist it for their own private agendas should have their asses kicked.

  2. Those who try to twist it for their own private agendas should have their asses kicked.And I'll gladly hold both your coats while you do so. After I run over that fucking sign in Butte, AK.

    Because I don't think I would have restrained myself. In fact, my own plans would probably have included a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.

  3. And, you know, that isn't unique to the US either. Those of us who served and lived remember those who didn't make it home and the rest of the whole goddamn shooting match can just go away because they have no absolutely damned idea at all what it is we are taking the time to remember.

  4. Mike, I can't say it makes me happy to know you have this type of asshatery in Canada too.

  5. That sign really pisses me off because it totally misses the point of Christianity. I think I've got a post on this coming. Yeah, Ive got about 3 in the queue, and not time to finish them...

  6. I'm a little hesitant to comment since I'm guilty of the lesser of the sins you've mentioned. But you're absolutely right. There's a big difference between personally neglecting the purpose of the day and actively trying to usurp it.

    It's not like Wamsutta riding the coattails of International Towel Day...it's more like the Apple Growers Association trying to edge out National Citrus Day. I suppose that's a crappy analogy, but I hear what you're saying.

    There are 364 other days available. Steal one of those.

  7. Powerful essay. Thank you for providing an insightful perspective. It's making me think a lot and being disappointed in the current talking heads in our media.

    - tt

  8. I feel sorry for people who view everything through one filter to the point of absurdity. The person who made that sign was not thinking. They dishonor Jesus as much as they spit on those for whom Memorial Day was intended to honor.

    I've been working on a SF short story called "Memorial Day" that I was going to post yesterday. But I'm giving myself more time, and will hopefully post it on 30 May 2009. Because I'm ornery and I'm not the only one who doesn't find it necessary to move Memorial Day to a day of convenience in order to have a first official day of summer holiday.

    Call me old-fashioned, but there was something nice in knowing that Sundays and holidays would find most stores shuttered and those people who'd be on both sides of the cash registers could be with family. Or on Memorial Day out honoring those family who didn't come back.

    They used to be called "After Memorial Day Sales".

    Oh yeah, and lots of families don't have anyone serve any more. But that's another whole issue.

    Dr. Phil

  9. I’m right there with you Jim…I'm still pissed that years ago the Feds, to promote, among other things, better planning for themselves and easier to schedule Fed holidays, took all honorific holidays and put them on a Monday.

    Memorial Day is just one of the victims of that line of thinking, along with the birthdays of King, Lincoln and Washington! Before all this nonsense started, and the date fell in the middle of the week, schools would give homework on the date involved. Why do we have Memorial Day, what did it commemorate, why is it important, things like that.

    When I was little, on Memorial Day morning you went to watch the parade with your whole family or marched in the parade if you were a veteran, scout, civic group or local marching band. The parade went the whole way down Main Street and, in our town at least, into the city park where the war memorials were located. Everyone participated, sang patriotic songs, & prayed together at the memorial ceremonies, and sometimes there was a big picnic sponsored by one of the civic groups. But we did it with your family and as a community.

    The next day, everyone went back to work or school. If you were in school, you wrote a report on what you did. It was all very civilized and respectful. Nobody had their own agenda.

    Then, at some point, Lincoln & Washington’s birthdays were combined to make “Presidents’ Day”, Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday in May, instead of the 30th, and MLK, Jr Day was added, not on the Reverend King’s Birthday, but on a Monday as well. At least most areas that observe MLK Day try to promote it as a day for service instead of just another day off.

    While I’m sure that Federal, State, Local, banking and postal officials find it easier to schedule and budget for 3-day weekends, all of these significant dates in the history of our nation have lost their meaning in the process. And we are a poorer country for it.


  10. What I find interesting about Memorial Day is that there are people in France, Italy, Holland, etc. who actually observe it too. They go to the American cemetaries in their respective nations and honor the people who died for their freedom, too.

  11. That would chap my hide too. Veteran's Day, actually gets me pissed off. 1: I recall what it was originally for, and that still speaks to me. I think the message to it needs to be remembered.

    2: It ends up being Memorial Day Lite. Want to celebrate my service? Fund the VA, don't dick with people who deserve a medical discharge; with a disability rating. Don't take years to get it resolved when the case is being figured out. Don't pro-rate someone's GI bill because finals don't last to the end of the month. If you do, don't take off a full month from that persons eligibility... The list goes on.

  12. Spot on, Jim.
    Might be a good thing I wasn't traveling in the same vehicle with you as I would've done my best to get you to stop, then join in on the trampling and torching.
    Marianne Robinson Pool


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