Monday, May 28, 2007

The Trivialization of Memory

It seemed, at the time, a pleasant—even innocuous—idea: take all the national holidays you can, consolidate them if you must, and place them on Mondays. In this orderly way there would be no interruption of the middle of the workweek. Factories wouldn’t have to pay time-and-a-half or more to close down mid work-stream. Offices and schools wouldn’t have to deal with a mid-week hiccup interrupting the flow or the curriculum. Oh, and—by the way—this would give everyone a long weekend that could be dedicated to the holiday.

The only problem is that the holiday and the memory are lost in recreation. Case at hand is Memorial day—the day I’m writing this. While the local and national news feeds featured appropriate remembrance, the greater focus was on the long weekend. Gas is more expensive, so people won’t travel as far. The lakes are suddenly up, creating floating hazards for boaters. It might rain and ruin the weekend.

Yesterday we remembered in church those who gave their lives for our country. There was a somber moment as we read together the official Memorial Day statement from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since I preach three of the five Sunday morning services we have at the Kirk, I had time to consider my own thinking. The somber moment in worship changed into an at-the-door series of greetings, “Happy Memorial Day.” While I don’t want people to be inordinately sad, the “Happy” seemed out of place. This day of remembrance was for those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, but most of us—myself included—were already focused on the barbeque and the time off the next day. At the end of subsequent services, I reminded people that we would have a happy day tomorrow because people gave their lives to provide our pleasant security.

Today (Memorial Day) I watched the President’s address from Arlington Cemetery. I found it on Fox News. Perhaps CNN had it live, as well. The broadcast networks kept to their regular Monday schedule so that no one missed The Price is Right.

Is Memorial Day truly a memory for those who gave their lives for us, or is it just time off? Does Labor Day truly remain a celebration of labor? Are the memories of particularly important presidents trivialized because of a joint holiday that focuses almost entirely on recreation?

Recreation is so important to us—the free weekend being the sacred time of secular society—that nothing is likely to change. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a future long weekend “celebrating” a rescheduled Christmas, or even a change to “Easter Monday.”

We might get some extra time off, but what we lose is priceless.

Keep praying--keep the faith,