Memorial Day And Stuff To Be Thankful For
May 26, 2014
It’s raining out. Pouring, actually. My weather station literally says it is “Raining cats-n-dogs”. The lower pasture is a solid sheet of water, and County Road 390 is a river, racing downhill. Yesterday, we had over an inch of rain. Today appears to be on track to outpace that.
We need it. I’m thankful.
Kat and I just got back from New York City where we spent a long weekend in Manhattan. We did the usual tourist things and saw a show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (absolutely incredible show). Most of the time, wherever we went, we were shoulder to shoulder with strangers, jostling and racing to get wherever it was they were going while we attempted to go… well, often we had no objective, we were just taking it in. I have visited most of the major cities in this country, and I have never seen so many people in one place, at one time. It was a good trip, but I can’t say I was sorry to watch those crowds disappear from the window of that outbound 737.
New York city has the sixth highest population density in the US (it is the most densely populated “major” city), with over 27,000 people per square mile. Edwards County, where I live, has 1968 people distributed over 2,120 square miles. I’m thankful for that.
And today is Memorial Day.
It’s probably a trite and simplistic way to put it, but the world as we know it today… politically, economically, and culturally… it was formed out of warfare (or the threat of war). War has been a constant part of human civilization since the first family fought over a piece of meat, a warm cave, or the choice of a mate. I’m not gonna go down the road of recounting geopolitical history (because I have zero expertise), but I do think some people tend to forget that war is not a new thing, and it’s certainly not unique to the United States.
It is also worth pointing out that it is at least partly due to our country’s strength at arms that so many of us live these lives of comfort and plenty. We may not all agree on the justifications for wars and violence, or the politics that drive them, but at least we must recognize that we announce our disagreement from a position of privilege and freedom that was guaranteed (in many cases) by the blood of US soldiers.
It’s a national holiday, founded in memory of soldiers who fought and died to make this country strong. There are several varying origin stories about this holiday, but they all come down to a remembrance and celebration of the Civil War dead. (A current, popular meme suggests it was started by ex-slaves, memorializing the union dead for freeing them. Other suggestions include the establishment of celebration or Decoration days in Waterloo, NY or Columbus, GA. Others argue for beginnings in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio. No one is really willing to say for sure, except that it was proclaimed a federal holiday in 1967.)
There I go again, down into that history lesson, while what I’m really getting at is that today, like Veteran’s Day in the fall, serves as a (too) brief reminder to those of us who did not fight… to those of us who benefit from the sacrifice of those who did… a reminder that we owe a debt to the men and women who have put their lives on the line in defense of this country. It’s a day to set aside the politics (governments start the wars, not the soldiers) and offer a salute in memory of those who died in the service of our country. And while we’re at it, send up a salute to those who are serving today, and to those who stand ready for the next time they’re called.
We live in a free and prosperous country, in large part because we are protected by the most powerful military force in the world. It is made up of men and women who have taken an oath to defend that freedom and prosperity, even to death.
And for them, I am thankful.