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Memorial Day

 


The political cartoon in today's local paper pointed up how Memorial Day has morphed over the years from a day to recognize the sacrifice of war veterans to simply another day of self-indulgence, whether that means outdoor recreation or--heaven forbid--the hallowed American pastime of shopping.  It made me think.

One of the most poignant things I've ever seen was a 50-something man sitting at a library table across from me some years back. He was looking through a picture book of the Vietnam war, turning the pages very slowly, stopping for a long time at certain ones. It was obvious that he was no casual observer, but most likely someone who had served there, too, looking back at places he'd been, thinking about friends he'd known there, some of whom undoubtedly didn't return home. It reminded me of the huge, invisible burden carried by nearly all veterans of military conflicts, and how easily the rest of us forget: out of sight, out of mind.

The U.S. is a culture of the 'now', and while there are ways in which we have definitely emancipated ourselves from the past for the better--the concept, for example, of creating your own future without being restricted to the class your parents were part of--in another way we've swept away many elements of value that the past has to offer. How often do we stop to think back to--and actually appreciate--people who made significant contributions to our town, our school, our family or society? Are we just too busy getting on with the hectic, rote routine of today? A pause to step off the hamster wheel and ponder these things could definitely leave us richer for the effort.

 

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