The Independent Newsweekly
|Today's Take: NCR's daily Web column|
|Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news. It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.|
|May 23, 2003||
Vol. 1, No. 35
Memorial Day is a sad day
Sister Rita Larivee, SSA, NCR associate publisher
In the United States, we begin Memorial Day celebrations with the government-designated terrorist threat level at orange or "high risk" — the second highest level on the scale.
It seems unfortunate that since the first observance of Memorial Day in 1868, 135 years ago, we continue to bury more of our young men and women in the name of freedom.
Historically, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have died in our nations's service. It was originally established to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. But following World War I, it was changed to commemorate all who have died fighting in any war and became a day when people throughout the country will speak of the freedom that is so highly cherished by this country.
Yet, it is quite ironic that while we are remembering the freedom upon which this country was built and so many people died, we are once again prompted to a heightened level of fear for the sake of security.
It would seem that we are quite confused about freedom, what it is, how to nurture it, and our capacity to ensure it for generations to come.
Memorial Day is a sad day. It's a reminder of our failure to learn from history that war does not resolve conflict. We honor those who have died due to our inability as a nation and as a world to live up to the challenge of peacemaking.
My godfather is 87 years old. He fought during Word War II and to this day refuses to talk about his days as a soldier. He remembers his buddies who were killed and those who were never quite the same following the war. After all these years, he's disappointed that we still send our children off to fight for issues we should have learned to resolve years ago.
It's not that we can't find solutions to our problems. It's more a matter of not choosing to find solutions.
The budget for the Department of Defense for 2003 is $379 billion and includes $54 billion for research and development, the largest federal sponsor of such programs. That's over $1,300 for every person in the United States.
Perhaps as a nation, we could use some of the research money we spend on defense technology and celebrate Memorial Day by sponsoring workshops on conflict resolution — or seminars on world solidarity to end hunger and poverty — or programs about human rights and reverence for life.
We have the capability to provide televised programming for any emergency at a moment's notice and can broadcast any message over hundreds of channels and airwaves almost immediately. With this type of technological achievement in communication, which did not exist in 1868, the memory of those who have died should be worthy of something more edifying on Memorial Day than the ever increasing amounts of violence coming across our home TV screens. Why can't the programming, for just one day, be a little different?
Our country today stands at alert level orange. But it's not because of the terror from outside. It's because of our failure to choose otherwise from inside.
We must always remember those who have died, but we do them no honor if we go to war again. Memorial Day is about remembering so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past. It's the least we can do for our fallen sons and daughters — past, present and future.
© 2003 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115
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