Today is Memorial Day here in the United States. Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed annually on the last Monday of May. It is a day of remembering the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Americans observe Memorial Day by flying the flag at half-staff from dawn until noon, visiting cemeteries and memorials, and pausing for a national moment of remembrance at 3 pm. There may also be parades throughout the country and the National Memorial Day Concert takes place on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start of summer and many Americans will take to the beach today or hold backyard barbecues.
I have an uneasy relationship with war and the nationalism that sometimes takes over days like today, but I will take a moment today to say thank you to the millions of men and women who have sacrificed their lives for this nation and to those who continue to defend it. Beyond that, I’d like to leave you with a couple of great articles on Memorial Day from around the web.
Adam Cohen reminds us that Memorial Day began after the American Civil War when nearly 10-thousand freed slave and abolitionists gathered in Charleston, SC to honor Union soldiers who gave their lives to battle slavery. He explores what the history of Memorial Day teaches us about honoring the war dead.
In “Race and Reunion,” his masterful book about historical memory, David Blight, a professor at Yale, tells the wistful story of Memorial Day’s transformation — and what has been lost as a result. War commemorations, he makes clear, do not just pay tribute to the war dead. They also reflect a nation’s understanding of particular wars, and they are edited for political reasons. Memorial Day is a day not only of remembering, but also of selective forgetting — a point to keep in mind as the Iraq war moves uneasily into the history books.
The Opinion Pages at the New York Times has a sweet editorial about the unofficial start of summer on Memorial Day and the role of nature in comforting the nation.
It has always seemed fitting to mark the purpose of this holiday — honoring those who have died in our country’s service — at the exuberant end of May. The outburst of spring is just slowing into summer’s cadence, and yet you can still smell and feel the biological crescendo all around you.
And finally, Yahoo! News has a bittersweet slideshow of Memorial Day photographs.
About the featured image: Graves at Arlington by Wikipedia user Remember for the public domain.