It is Memorial Day weekend in the U.S.
The holiday originally was called Decoration Day and was a day of remembrance for Union soldiers who died in the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include soldiers who died in any war. It more recently was expanded to allow retailers to shamelessly peddle their stuff at those ubiquitous monuments to rampant capitalism -- the shopping mall.
As always, I've hung an American flag outside of Kiko's House this Memorial Day, a 48-star banner that long waved outside the rural Minnesota farmhouse of my love's Norwegian immigrant forebears during times of peace and of war.
As always, I will keep the weekend simple and go for a hike and perhaps a swim in our spring-fed mountain pool (brr!).
As always, I will remember that freedom of speech is not protected by journalists like myself but by the men and women who have given their lives to defend American values.
As always, I will feel a sadness over loved ones and friends who will not be with us this Memorial Day because of their sacrifices. Nick Tuke, Chuck Callanan, Bobby Tames and Bob Layton. And the men who perished in the Iron Triangle of Iraq -- Christopher Murphy, Anthony Schober, Joseph Anzack, Daniel Courneya, James Connell, Byron Fouty and Alex Jiminez -- whom I feel like I got to know writing about them in death if not in life.
But this Memorial Day is different. So have too many as I have slouched toward my dotage. Besides being sad, I also am angry -- a slow burn, I suppose -- over the mess that we've made of our once great country.
As my cousin
is fond of saying, dissent and bickering are the soundtrack of a democracy. But this should be a golden age for County Bumpkin and it is anything but. I cannot recall a time in my life when so few have so much and so many are struggling. America
When America's heart and soul -- its middle class -- is so beleaguered. When we are so incapable of a national consensus on anything beyond the belief that government and many of our institutions have failed us. That things only will get worse before they get better, if they ever get better. When people who should know better are describing the presidential election as "a choice between the lesser of two evils": A woman, who however flawed, has dedicated her life to making ours better and a bottom-feeding demagogue who preys on our weaknesses and fears.
So what’s to be done about this dismal state of affairs?
Such pessimism is uncharacteristic of me, let alone Americans in general, and I feel a twinge of shame that I am unable to be more upbeat this Memorial Day weekend. But my glass is well below half empty, especially when I reflect on the sacrifices our men and woman at arms are asked to make.
Sacrifices for what? An ill-focused War on Terror? The mess in
Mesopotamia? The pathetic war in Afghanistan? Preparing for the next war? You tell me.
-- Love and Peace, SHAUN