Memorial Day: Reflections on Sacrifice

Today is Memorial Day.

Today we honor and mourn the more than one million Americans who died while serving in the US armed forces. Today we pause to reflect on them and their service. They remind us that sometimes the welfare of our nation requires sacrifice. Sometimes, it requires the ultimate sacrifice.

It’s a fact that as members of a society we are sometimes called on to make sacrifices for the good of our fellow citizens. And doing so is noble noble and patriotic. That’s the reason for this holiday; that’s the reason for the parades and the flag waving. And that’s the reason that (under normal circumstances) we have this day off from work: to allow us to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by others on our behalf.

Because that’s the American way. And not only during times of war, but always. Surely so: after every national tragedy or natural disaster, we’re fed hours of news footage of Americans pitching in and helping one another: filling sandbags, making donations, digging out, coming together.

And now, millions of Americans across the country are being asked to make a similar sacrifice to protect and defend their fellow citizens. We are being asked to stay home. To forego the BBQ or a day at the beach. And an extreme sacrifice: to wear a piece of cloth over our nose and mouth when we go out in public.

It’s hard to fathom the audacity of a society that would ask so much of its citizens.

Indeed, in an upending of everything we’ve been taught about what is required of us as Americans, we are now being told that in being asked to wear a mask out of concern for our neighbors, our rights are being irretrievably infringed upon. Can one think of anything more infringing than a face mask? Certainly not being asked to button on a uniform, strap on a weapon, and fight and die in a foreign land.

Remember when Americans believed that with rights come responsibilities? That Freedom isn’t Free? How did the Republican party (and for sure, this pre-dates the Trump Republican party) manage to make such a mockery of the concept of shared sacrifice? of caring for our neighbors and putting others ahead of ourselves? When did thinking about the welfare of our fellow Americans become such an infringement on our God-given rights? When did looking out for others become so un-patriotic?

On this day of reflection, I’m reflecting on what seems to be a new era of selfishness that I see growing in this country. It’s a sad day indeed.