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,


Stushie said...

For the Veterans

We will remember them,
Even though the years of peace
Have swiftly gone and lately passed
And men of war can't rest at last;
We, who are free,
Will not forget how once they chose
To fight and die on distant shores
For love of us and liberty.

We will remember Him,
Even though the years of grace
Have distanced each succeeding race
And men of God seem out of place;
We, with our faith,
Will not forget how once He chose
To go and die upon a cross
For love of us and liberty.

He will remember us,
Even though the years of life
Fly swiftly past before our eyes
And man is dust beneath the skies;
He, with His power,
Will not forget all those who choose
To follow Him and never lose
Their love of God or Liberty.

(c) John Stuart

Anonymous said...

Ironic, isn't it? In the effort to make it easier for us to celebrate national holidays, we have instead made it easier to forget them.

The cycle of selfishness and recreational idolatry now spins out of control...

Except for gas prices.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful and very appropriate comments.

For those of us who were privileged to lead Marines (or soldiers or sailors or airmen) in combat, every day is Memorial Day. After one tough night on a little hill in a place known as the “Arizona Territory” southwest of Danang, as we put the remains of PFC Jimmy Wandro onto a medevac, my 20 year-old platoon sergeant said, “Remember their names, Lieutenant. Remember their names. They ain’t really dead so long as we remember their names.”

So, “at the going down of the sun, and in the morning,” I especially remember PFC Don Lucas, PFC Rich Zimmerman, L/Cpl Ernie Tews, L/Cpl Barry Unfried, PFC Jimmy Wandro, PFC Jimmy Phipps (Medal of Honor, posthumous), and 2d Lieutenant Fred Andrew Hartman. They are among God’s most magnificent creations—United States Marines.

And yet, they would probably not begrudge us a long weekend, so long as we spent it with family and friends, sharing old memories and making new ones in the back yard or at the shore or in the mountains or at a ball game (preferably with a cold beer or two and a pretty girl to smile at). So, here’s to you, brothers, until we are together again in Glory.

Semper Fidelis.

Michael R. McCarty
LtCol, USMC (ret)
Charlie Co, Fifth Marines, 1st Marine Division

Anonymous said...


You might be encouraged to know that as I sat down to a Colorado, pre-hike picnic with (former Kirk pastor) Eugene and Dee Dee and their family and friends, Eugene asked us to name anyone we knew who died defending the country. Apparently, one of the younger girls made a joke; Eugene said he wouldn't joke about people dying for freedom. So, the conversation resumed its serious tone.

This coupled with previous conversations about noticing meaning in ceremony (like the 5 weddings he and Dee Dee did that weekend) and a Eugene Peterson essay along those lines.

We obviously need leaders to help us find, learn, remember meaning.


John West said...

Several years ago, in a moment of unusual good memory for me at least, I stood at the VN memorial in DC and looked up the names of all of the good men I led from 61-65 in a small EOD (bomb disposal and demolition) detachment. I don't know why all those years later I could remember all the names because my memory is very poor but for a few moments I did. I breathed prayers of thanksgiving as I looked through the big book listing the names and locations on the monument. None of those in the little unit were in the list, although I know most of them had to have been in and out of country maybe several times. Disarming bombs,mines and booby traps and blowing up stuff was a dangerous business both in war and peace yet this little group apparently survived. Praise God and my prayer remains that those who did not know him have subsequently received his saving grace. John West

regressivepresby said...

Powerful, humbling story. Thank you.