Memorial Day (Repost)
On this solemn day, i wanted to simply repost what I said last Memorial Day here on the blog. I haven’t seen quite as much “Barbecue Shaming” to coin a phrase this year as I have in years past. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to keep in mind the relative innocence of hosting cookouts and barbecues on a day like this. So, enjoy this post from last year. –Ty
“I find myself each year resenting the reminders that are all over the internet that Memorial Day is “not National Barbecue Day”.
It’s condescending. I don’t need reminded of what today is.
I’m opposed to the mutually exclusive tone of those reminders. Are we incapable of having a barbecue and respecting the fallen at the same time? A day off is a rare thing for some people, so why can’t they enjoy it? Are we expected to fast and sit in a dark room all day because it is Memorial Day? Or on that day do we opt to partake in the pleasures and rights for which so many died in service to this country? Maybe people barbecue on this day off in tribute to those who will never again go to a barbecue and enjoy life. And even if that isn’t their direct motivation for firing up the grill on Memorial Day, I choose to believe most of the fallen would not be offended that someone opted to eat outside today and maybe even enjoy themselves.
Having a barbecue on Memorial Day is not dancing on somebody’s grave, yet that’s the impression some of the memes give off.
Speaking of graves, I’m offended at how often the “Just in case you forgot…” messages are accompanied by some picture, usually of a woman, draped over a coffin or a tombstone, or laying on top of a grave with a blanket. I can’t say nobody has ever done this, as people handle grief in their own way. But to begin with, how verifiable are most of those images? Do we know it really is somebody’s widow and that there’s anybody in that coffin? Furthermore does it matter? If it’s not authentic, it’s pretty screwed up to stage something like that in order to make some quick point. And it’s even worse if the photos are authentic. Who the hell is taking that picture, and making it available to the world? Who with a camera says, “I want to make sure I get a shot of this.”
But far worse than taking the picture is using it. Posting pictures of wailing widows and devastated children, authentic or not, and captioning them with a mini-sermon about having a barbecue is more offensive to me, and certainly more exploitative of the day than any picnic can be. Are we honoring the dead with those memes, or are we seeking acknowledgment of our own “honor” by sensationalizing on the backs of such images?
I do not need to be shocked into understanding Memorial Day. Nobody needs to, in fact. Those who are going to honor Memorial Day are going to even in the midst of a barbecue, and those who are not will not be convinced to change their minds because of some meme.
People are free to honor the fallen and respect this day in whatever way they choose. I myself choose the subtle, introspective route. And while I take that route I may be at a fun event or have a burger, it’s true. You or others may opt to be more quiet and somber all day long. It’s all acceptable. But let’s cool it with the judging of others with these framed guilt trips that we can fire off at the push of a button to our social media connections.
As a writer, I’m well aware of some of the things for which many people have died in service to the Constitution. Every word I write is a testament to that understanding, even if it isn’t on the forefront of my mind at any given moment. It’s a sacred right, to be allowed such self-expression as I partake in each day; it is a right that would not exist if not for the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives over the years. I know it without the memes. I knew it before memes existed.
I also know of loss, as my father died when I was seven. He wasn’t in the service, but beyond a certain point, died is died, and I’m all too aware each day of what that can do to a family. Your annual retweet on the last Monday in May won’t reinforce that, believe me. It’s always there.
So, here’s to Memorial Day. Enjoy it with prayer or with beer and burgers. Or of course both at the same time if you like. Both are part of living in a free nation. Part of being alive in a free nation. And we, and the nation are alive because a lot of people are dead today.
See? I do know.”
(Originally appeared here.)