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!
…..and I am thankful. Thankful that Election 2016 is behind us. For months we were bombarded with negative rhetoric and ugly visual ads. Facebook throbbed with new posts, one more outrageous than the last. Terms such as crook and misogyny became part of everyday vocabulary in reference to our soon-to-be chosen president. The focus was on criticism rather then optimism, negative findings of the past rather than creative ideas for the future, exclusion rather than inclusion. I don’t know about you, but I was sad about the whole process.
Finally November 8th arrived, and I had the privilege of working at the polls with a fine group of people. We arranged tables to accommodate voters efficiently, hung customary notices, reviewed our assignments, and began the day with a long line at the door. Smiles and cheerful greetings welcomed our neighbors as they arrived. One dear elderly lady carried out her civic duty with the help of a patient daughter, others had moved to another part of the community and needed directions to their new polling location, a kind restaurant owner delivered lunch and then hours later dinner. Quite a few voters brought children and teens, and we welcomed them eagerly as young witnesses to the democratic process. First time voters received a round of applause and cheers, much to their surprise. Some of us worked from 6 AM until closing at 8 PM .
After a full day at the polls, I returned home to view the colorful map and hear the earliest results coming in from the East Coast. Like many, I was very surprised. Late evening stretched into night at which time the map was complete and it was clear that the ever-intensifying nightmare of the campaign season had culminated in a victory for one candidate. Unprecedented protests followed along with fascinating commentary and many questions. Will campaign promises be fulfilled? Did the public receive false impressions from postings on social media? How did mainstream leaders miss the cries of a mass of the population that evidently feels “left out”? What impact will the new president in the White House (or on 5th Avenue) have on European nations teetering on the brink of electing far right leaders?
Only time will tell, I suppose. I hope and pray that thoughtful consideration and wisdom will play a role. Now one week later, there is another question. Should I prepare my mother’s cranberry-orange gelatin salad or fresh whole berry sauce? This is a question I can handle. And it gives me much joy!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!