I want to say a few things on this day. For any international readers who might not know, today is Memorial Day in the United States, which is meant to be a day when we stop our normal activity and remember all those who have given their lives so that we can live in the freedoms that we do. Now, I don’t want to use this day or this blog to rant and rail about how we’re pissing away our freedoms or anything like that. But I do want to make a comment about our attitudes.
Many Americans just see today as another 4-day weekend. They have a party, they hoot and they holler, they drink too much, and then they go back to work on Tuesday. American companies see it as yet another opportunity to make money. The number of emails that I’ve received advertising “amazing Memorial Day sales” is absolutely staggering. Now, as you may know, I work at a cemetery, and I have very specific thoughts about how to respect the dead. Particularly when those dead are the ones who put their lives down so that we could have the opportunity to have a party, get drunk, and buy cheap shit that we probably don’t need.
My grandfather, who is himself a veteran of the Korean War, no longer attends any Memorial Day parades or events because he can’t bear to see the disrespect. When the soldiers fire off their guns in salute to those fallen, kids run up to grab the brass out of the guns before the salute is even finished. People use the day for grandstanding and demagoguery on both sides of the political spectrum, when they ought to be silently grateful. My grandfather told me, “I would rather that they weep and wail than all this nonsense,” and he has a point. If we don’t value those who died, how will we value those who will die, or the legacy that they have left us? How many lives do you think is a fair trade for 65% off an Oxford shirt?
I feel that Memorial Day is even more relevant for us, because we are writers. Not only have we been granted the Freedom of Speech, but we actually use it. I can sit at home and write about elves and dragons and sentient computers because I don’t need to spend my time defending myself against those who would kill me. Isn’t that an incredible thing that we take for granted? We use our freedom not to raise a rabble or stir up rebellions, but to entertain ourselves and others, to bring enjoyment into a world often devoid of it. At least, I hope that’s what we are doing. We can also change people’s perceptions, shaping the world around us with our words. Let’s use that freedom with respect this year.
As an aside, I do want to thank all of you who read this blog. After posting for the first time in nearly six months, it made me feel truly special to see some of you still reading.