It’s the day before Memorial Day; or Decoration Day, as my older relatives used to call it. People first started celebrating the holiday by decorating the graves of veterans and those who died in war with flags and ribbons. It seems like most young Americans nowadays think of this holiday as a big party that heralds the beginning of summer. Though because of the current war in the middle East I’m sure there are many Americans who are painfully aware of what this day represents. But this Memorial Day has even more meaning for me than in most years.
For many weeks Arthur and Fiona and I have been reading about American history for some of our home schooling activities. And a big part of that involves learning about the many wars that Americans have fought in. We’ve particularly read a lot about the Civil War and more recently the Viet Nam War and World War 2. There are some great movies we can watch too, but some of the best ones may have to wait till the kids are a little older; like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or my favorite Civil War film, ‘Glory’. Arthur and I just watched the first part of a really good documentary film on Netflix called ‘WWII in HD‘. It follows 12 real soldiers, 11 men and 1 woman, throughout the war using color film footage that’s recently been discovered. It’s amazing stuff! There are interviews with a few who are still alive, and actors reading from the written accounts of these people’s experiences in Europe, Africa and the Pacific.
But getting back to the point; it’s interesting that we’ve been reading and watching all this stuff about Americans and the wars they’ve been involved in so close to Memorial Day. Sometimes I don’t think all that much about what this holiday is really about. But this year I feel more thankful than ever to all the American Service people who fought and died to preserve the freedoms we have today. And even though I get pretty pissed off at what our political system has become today; the divisiveness, hypocrisy, corruption and corporate control of government (the subject for another time and post, for sure) I am still lucky as hell to live in America. And I’m still hopeful we can overcome the problems that face our country and find some balance of sanity and responsibility; to return to a government that cares about all its people, not just those with wealth and influence.
Just realizing how many millions suffered in World War 2 and how perilously close the Axis came to taking over the world really blows my mind! And realizing what a major role Americans played in that war makes me incredibly thankful to their generation and to the spirit that turned that tide of darkness from engulfing the Earth. I mean, the odds against the American Armed Forces in 1941 were incredibly daunting, but they gave everything they had and turned the tide of the war.
It’s that spirit that we must honor tomorrow. And the spirit of all those who put themselves in mortal danger in the past and to this very day to preserve the freedom of others.
I thank my children’s education for reminding me of these truths which we can so easily overlook.