Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Reflections

      Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, was originally observed on the 30th of May. (The bill changing it to the last Monday in May was passed on June 28, 1968. It became effective at the Federal level in 1971.)
      Decoration Day was originated in 1868 by order of the head of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was supposed to be a day when the graves of the war dead were to be decorated with flowers.
      There are two versions as to why May 30th was chosen - one declares that at that time flowers would be in bloom all over the country; the other says that it was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle of the Civil War.
      My first remembrance of a particular Memorial Day is the one in 1941. At the time I had been taking music lessons for eight or nine months, and had been participating in the “junior” high school band for most of that time. The “senior” band was scheduled to play in two parades on Decoration Day, Friday, the 30th.
      The day before, the band director told me I was promoted to the senior band, and gave me my uniform. Never mind that I had never played the music, and either missed or misplayed most of the notes during the parades – I WAS IN THE BAND!
      I was twelve years old at the time, and the real significance of the holiday had not yet bored its way into my skull.
      Beginning with the War for Independence, over 1,316,000 Americans have died in war. Even sadder, 623,000 lives, or 47.3%, were lost in the War Between the States. Almost half the lives were lost while we were fighting with each other!
      Today we are still fighting with each other. While it has not erupted into a physical battle, it has progressed to the point where gridlock at the Federal level has almost been accepted as a way of life.
      According to a recent CBS News poll, almost 55% of Americans of both parties are dissatisfied with the way things are going in Washington. Yet normally centrist politicians have either been voted out of office, e.g, Arlen Specter, or have had to scurry to the outer fringes of their parties to stay in the running, e.g., John McCain.
      Recently there has been an upsurge of voters changing their registration to Independent. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, “if the trend continues up, the unaffiliated or independent voters may overtake the Republicans and Democrats as the majority of voters.”
      Unfortunately they will have even less chance to choose their candidates – in some states, including Pennsylvania, only members of the two major parties may vote in the primary elections. If we cannot come together to reconcile our own differences, why are we trying to be the police force for the entire world?
      So on this day of remembrance, let us pray that are Armed Forces will be brought home soon. And let us reflect on the wisdom of ALL our battles, both the external and the internal ones.
      Have a thoughtful day.

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