It’s that weekend again. The one where we barbecue lots of burgers, work on our tans, enjoy the bounty that Wal-Mart has to offer and bask in the glow of the coming summer months. The lazy days that are about to bring us fond memories for winter.
But before we begin the traditional American ritual of the three-day holiday devoted to putting men in aprons as they re-learn how to cook over an open fire, let’s take a moment and remember what this Memorial Day thing is all about.
As much as we like to have our holidays be excuses for overindulging in food and drink, and we don’t really like to look at the reality of the world, it is imperative that we take a glance back to see from whence we came.
Memorial Day began in America as a local event for communities that had suffered losses during the Civil War and wanted to pay homage to the valiant dead. The principle though of setting aside a time to remember the dead warriors who fought for an ideal dates back to at least 430 B.C. The great Greek historian Thucydides recorded in his “History of the Peloponnesian War” an annual funeral oration that was delivered by Pericles. The annual public funeral was a way to honor the dead, and to inspire patriotic fervor in the citizenry.
Lincoln did much the same with his Gettysburg Address, frequently cited as one of the best speeches by an American of all time. The goal in honoring the dead is to pay tribute, but it is also to remind the living of the sacrifices that others have made for the lifestyle of the country.
In 1967, Memorial Day was officially recognized and in 1968, with the passage of the Uniform Holidays Bill by Congress, the three-day weekend event was formalized. Many people noted how the moving of a day of remembrance affected its impact and feel that it lessened the import of the day of remembrance. There is certainly a great deal of truth in that.
With two wars still going on, and the men and women of our country still serving, and dying, around the globe, I wanted to point out that there’s more at stake than a double cheeseburger.
All soldiers fight for the way of life of their country. Whether it be Athenians fighting for democracy, Brits fighting for the monarchy or Union soldiers fighting to hold a country together. War is about larger ideals than any individual, yet it takes the individuals to stand up for the larger ideals.
Purpose gives meaning and inspiration for people to stand together, cohesion is what makes them effective. The secret to the success of the Spartan warriors was not just their single-minded devotion to their cause, but their pulling together as one. Operating shoulder to shoulder, they formed a phalanx that presented a united front which lead to their success.
We’ve seen the same principle in modern times. When the Allies worked together they defeated the Axis forces in WWII.
This Memorial Day, let us all take a moment to remember the point of it all. For we must remember to stand with the dead in fighting for what we believe is right. I do not always agree with my government, but I have the right to disagree because others have fought to make it so.
It has been said that all it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing. The first step in doing nothing is forgetting, forgetting the sacrifices that so many others have made. We have memorials to those who fought for our country throughout the city; they are at Woodlawn Cemetery, in Palisades Park, in the clubs around town like the Elks and the VFW.
We should all remember the price for the ease with which we BBQ a burger and rail against the government was paid for, with the lives of the men and women who went before us.
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” — Gettysburg Address, A. Lincoln
David Pisarra is a divorce attorney who specializes in father’s rights and men’s issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He can be reached at email@example.com or (310) 664-9969.