Did you know that this holiday was originally called Decoration Day? It was born as a commemoration to the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, the occasion was extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service, and renamed Memorial Day. As a result of the Civil War, a new theme of death, sacrifice and rebirth entered the national consciousness, imprinting a quasi-spiritual component to a secular event. Memorial Day gave ritual expression to these themes, integrating the American community with a sense of nationalism.
Beyond remembrance of those who made “the ultimate sacrifice,” is it not time that we seriously question the impulse to go to war, whether it is between nations, between people, or within ourselves? The human race has made great strides in terms of technological advancements, particularly in our lifetime. Yet the daily news is still fraught with violent conflict, from international to individual to suicidal.
Conflict is a fact of life, but how we manage it provides a benchmark as to whether we are evolving or essentially bestial in our mentality. It would be amazing on this holiday to celebrate the mastery of conflict, while we remember and honor those who suffered the consequences of conflict.