“‘Happy’ Memorial Day!” – that shit makes me uncomfortable.
So does stuff like this:
(pictured: screen grab from Twitter, taken 5/25/15)
I’m not gonna lie — I like (read: love) a good sale. I also like BBQing, drinking beer, swimming and going to the lake, and taking days off. But I feel very ambivalent about haphazardly enjoying all these fun things (and more!) without also directly acknowledging the fact that many people had to die to get me/us here, both way back in the day and, like, yesterday.
According to everyone’s favorite convenient fact-finding resource — Wikipedia — Memorial Day is a US federal holiday intended for remembering people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. It also seems relevant today to think about people who *almost* died, but I guess they have Veteran’s Day so whatever… (please register my likely highly inappropriate sarcasm)
In expressing my discomfort with the way we *actually* seem to *celebrate* this day, it was pointed out to me that some people — from survivors of war to those who have known service persons who have been killed in various ways — love hearing “Happy Memorial Day!” Others hate it. This is an important dynamic to be mindful of, as the scope of human experience is widely varied.
What’s more, I feel that I have no legitimate claim on Memorial Day ambivalence. Though members of my family have died in various forms of US military service, these persons come from generations too far back for me to have known them directly. My maternal grandfather served in the Navy during the Korean war, but that’s not what killed him and — to my recollection — he didn’t suffer the sorts of psychological fallout that often plague service members who make it home otherwise (apparently, physically) unscathed.
So I don’t know… Is there a more respectful way to honor those who have been killed, both in remembrance as well as in celebration? And do I even have the right to indulge my ambivalence? What do you think?
Here are a couple of things I read recently that I find both relevant and compelling:
“Ads About Veteran Suicide Show Heartbreaking Photos of the Homes Where They Died” from AdWeek (5/22/15) here.
“It’s Not Rude: These Portraits Of Wounded Vets Are Meant To Be Stared At” from NPR (5/25/15) here.
(pictured: me and my Grandpa Charlie, circa 1980, Paramount, CA)
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