Of course, to those in the know, Memorial Day in the U.S. is May 30th. The first such nationwide observance as Decoration Day was in 1868 to commemorate the Union Civil War dead -- now it commemorates much more. It only became a Federal three-day weekend Monday holiday effective in 1971 when I was in 7th grade. So we've ended up with Memorial Day on Monday, but some of the parades and events were on Saturday -- it's all confusing.
Frankly, since 1971, I think we've gone downhill with making Memorial Day a commercial event, one which doesn't have anything to do with honoring the service and sacrifice of those who've worn the uniform of the U.S. As someone recently pointed out, Memorial Day really isn't about selling furniture.
Dealing With It
We are not traveling on vacation or to visit relatives. We aren't crowd people and I don't handle heat very well, so we didn't go out to any of the parades or what not. Nothing at the cineplexes we were dying to see this weekend, so we left the malls and those crowds to others. It will be a quiet weekend here.
On television, since Friday, we've been flooded with war movies and major sporting events. The Indianapolis 500 is churning and wrecking even as I type. Friday night, though, there was nothing we wanted nattering on in the background or to watch, so I cracked open the set of Firefly DVDs I bought a couple of years ago. It'd been a while since we borrowed the series from a friend, so it was time to be amazed at how much fun that show was. FOX-TV's execs were idiots. And then there's History Channel's new series The Story of Us (U.S.) -- Saturday night they were showing the lead up to and including the Civil War.
I did not know that blacks served as equals on whaling ships. They had trouble enough getting crews that they welcomed anyone who would sign up. The Runaway Slave Act could catch free blacks, if someone lied, and without chance of a proper hearing, get sent South to "their owners". Shades of the Arizona immigration law, methinks?
And the telegraph "is like Twitter today". A point well made in the excellent little book The Victorian Internet.
Don't Get Me Started
The frothy side of politics wants to make a big smear about President Obama's decision to go to the Chicago area Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, rather than Arlington, tomorrow. Now don't get me wrong -- Arlington National Cemetery is an important place. And Vice-President Biden will lay the Nation's wreath there to represent us all. But there are America's honored dead buried all across the country. And Obama came out of Illinois for political purposes. He went to Arlington last year. And, though I've not verified the claims, this is the sort of thing I'm hearing which points to the lie of the frothies:
Before we get to the actual story, let’s take a quick trivia quiz. Who was the only President in the past 30 years to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day every year of his presidency? It wasn’t Ronald Reagan, who spent one year in Normandy and at least one other at his ranch in California. It wasn’t George W. Bush, either, although he was also at Normandy the one year he missed. George H. W. Bush, a veteran himself, never attended ceremonies at Arlington, sending Dan Quayle in his stead. In fact, it was Bill Clinton who made eight Memorial Day appearances at Arlington National Cemetery.
Let us NOT make this a political statement, wringing our hands about our disappointment at not going to Arlington, but instead recognize that our nation's first black president is going to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to recognize our honored dead.
I can't speak for veterans, as I am not one myself, but nothing gets me annoyed more than someone's false sense of hurt in the name of their special snowflake brand of patriotism. Sorry, I had to say that.
Meanwhile, I will most post more on Memorial Day tomorrow, on the Memorial Day (Observed).