Another Memorial Day weekend was approaching and my thoughts turned to blue skies, family picnics, watermelon and burgers, American flags gracing porches and gardens, and a joyful launch of summertime. Again, as in the past, I relished the idea of watching the Memorial Day Concert live from Washington, DC, with its array of performers and story tellers reaching out to the nation at sunset.
But I had forgotten…..this holiday is about war. The concert included tales of bravery, along with images of explosions, downed military planes, smoke, and death. I was in tears as professional actors told the vivid stories of human sacrifice. We all viewed film footage of military families parting, little children broken hearted as their brave parents went off to war. How could I have forgotten?
More questions flooded my thoughts. What is the point? Has war ever accomplished anything good for mankind? Is it not possible for courageous men and women to put their talent into peacemaking instead of war strategies? Who wins a war anyway? There is certainly lots of loss.
And then the tough reality….so many lives have been offered over the years to defend our nation on foreign soil and now we find ourselves in the midst of a great domestic divide that is punctuated by gun violence, racial conflict, and elected leaders who vote purely in their self-interest.
I’d rather think about the first sweet watermelon of the summer and the happy family gathering at my table. But the paradox is compelling on this traditional holiday. And the image of the sun setting over our beautiful capital city during the annual concert is downright frightening.
Knowing that awareness is the first step in recovery, may we acknowledge the challenges of today and work together with fellow-Americans of diverse viewpoints for the common good. We owe it to those many fine, brave men and women who gave their lives for our values—those whom we honor today!
By all reports it should have been wonderful. The weatherman had predicted perfect summer weather, just right for a picnic in the park or kayak excursion on the lake. I had invited friends for dinner: the house was ready, shopping was complete except for garden veggies from the local farmer, and freshly baked oatmeal-nut bread was cooling on a rack.
The table was set with blue willow china, a gift from my mother, and I had even dusted and reorganized the shelves of the old corner cupboard. It has a beauty of its own and displays impractical but beloved items, such as a large crystal bowl given by a friend, a pair of tiny Blumenkinder figures purchased in Germany, and white china dessert plates edged in platinum. During the dusting process two of the delicate plates slipped from my hands and shattered on the floor. No worries…”I’ll just clean up the pieces. There are still four plates left and others stacked in a cubby in the kitchen.”
Then breaking news appeared on my phone. Another gun event, known as a m… s…, as if it should have a common name. How many times does it take? Proposed legislation that would help deter such violence gathers dust on desks in fancy offices while our elected leaders enjoy their summer leave. Shock and collective sadness, prayers, and conversation occur after each event, and yet nothing changes. Shortly after the first reported shooting, another occurred in a different city. Unbelievable!
How will history books record these times? I shudder to think of possible chapter headlines.
Mass shootings became commonplace, Americans killing Americans
Gun industry stocks rose at the expense of human life
Politicians were unable to act for the common good due to powerful special interest groups
USA became a dangerous place: freedom without responsibility
The possibilities go on, including Mental health crisis led to frequent mass killings or Violence in the media desensitized citizens.
My little dinner party took place as planned. Guests were jovial, telling stories of good old days and discussing the future. No mention was made of the tragedies that had occurred only hours before. Out of courtesy I let the conversation take its own path during the evening and we enjoyed our friendship! But underneath it all, we knew there were shattered families in sudden grief over lost loved ones, countless individuals suffering physical injuries and uncertain about the days ahead, communities torn apart, and an overwhelming sadness that this is where we are—here in the nation we call home.
I welcome your comments.