New Look at Memorial Day

May 31st, 2021 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

As we celebrate Memorial Day 2021, let me challenge you to consider what more this holiday may represent and further challenge you to look at things just a little differently than we have since the inception of this day of remembrance. This year our Memorial Day, our lives, our country, and our world position, vision, and influence has been forever changed.

In a recent article by Margaret Renkl in the New York Times, she explored the failure of our nation to meet the challenge of a different type of patriotism, patriotism to care for and defend our fellow man for the good of the country.

Not unlike what we did to preserve our nation, our belief system, and our future in times of war, in 2020 we had the opportunity to show a type of patriotism, human caring, and common good that would serve to present an example of what should and could be a positive pathway for life in America for generations to come.

She described the COVID pandemic as “the moral equivalent of war” where we were engaged in a battle to save lives, a battle that was not brought on by an actual war but by a pandemic that did not care about any individual human being.

In her opinion piece she alluded to the politicizing of this pandemic by our political leaders and by, as she described them, “craven commentators” who encouraged Americans to refuse to do anything to stop the spread of this disease because they should see themselves as patriots. As she stated, these self-proclaimed patriots continued to have social gatherings, would not stay at home, wear face masks, and now are rejecting the vaccine, a decision which could allow the virus to continue to mutate to the point of no return.

She stressed the fact that, excluding the Civil War, with one estimate as high as 900,000 COVID-lives lost, more Americans have died from COVID-19 than in all of the other wars we have ever fought as a country. We were engaged in a literal war, fighting for our lives against a virus, and the result was aptly described as a national calamity, an invasion of “a destructive and unstoppable force” that could have been met ever so much more humanely and intelligently than it was.

Our handling of the COVID-19 virus truly could have been a time for us all to come together on behalf of our fellow citizens, and to demonstrate our ability to sacrifice on behalf of others. But we did not, and now it is time to mourn the immeasurable losses caused by this war on our health, and as she described it, not mourning just for life but also for “security, camaraderie, and the capacity for hope.”

When we consider all of the teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers who lost their lives due to the daily sacrifices they made to protect, feed, educate, and help their fellow man, we see true patriotism. Then you can add to that the millions more of us who were compliant and took whatever measures necessary to protect our most vulnerable citizens from this disease. It is that knowledge that makes us even more aware of the chasm that exists between our fellow citizens who did not and who would not even consider changing their behavior in even the tiniest ways to protect or help their fellow man.

Maybe, as the author suggested, we need a new kind of Memorial Day to commemorate those who did the right thing by working collectively to protect and defend our neighbors, friends, and strangers but also to remember all of those whose lives were lost because of those shellfish decisions by others. The fact that our idea of national service has become so self-centered, so politicized, so cold and heartless, demonstrates where we currently are as human beings in a society that is struggling to remain a nation.

As she stated, “There is more to mourn today than I ever understood before.”


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