It Is an Either/Or Question.
George Santayana warned us, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Today is Memorial Day, which initially was called Decoration Day. It was a time that Americans decorated the graves of fallen Union soldiers. On May 30, 1868, Congressman James Garfield, who would become president a dozen years later, said this at the first Decoration Day. “We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”
The question is which Memorial Day should be observed. A half-century ago, Congress passed, and LBJ signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Memorial Day was to be the last Monday in May.
Nevertheless, various former Confederate states observed Memorial Day on different days. That seems an odd practice to have the defeated Confederacy would remember the war they started and in which they wished to continue slavery. Texas Confederate Memorial Day was January 19, Arkansas was the third Monday in January, Arkansas was on the third Monday in April, Alabama and Mississippi’s date was the fourth Monday in April, Florida and Georgia’s date was April 26, North and South Carolina was May 10, Virginia was the last Monday in May, and Louisiana and Tennessee’s date was June 3.
If the alternative dates don’t trouble you, what would you think about Germans celebrating a memorial day for fallen Nazis at Dachau and the other concentration camps?
America has been struggling with slavery since 1619. For over four centuries, we haven’t dealt with racism successfully. White cops shoot or kill blacks at a much higher rate than white cops shoot or kill whites. White vigilantes kill blacks when the cops aren’t involved. A recent tragic example is of an eighteen-year-old assassin in Buffalo.
America is a divided nation on basic ethical issues like dealing equally with racial groups, women, the LGBT community, and poverty. The preamble of our Constitution begins with these words. “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity….”
Our desire for a more perfect union resulted in a Civil War a century later. Lincoln attempted to move America to a more perfect union.
A year from today, will America be a more perfect union? If our country does so, it must address racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and white supremacy. It boils down to an either/or decision.