The dead can’t speak for themselves, but intelligent people might wonder what the fallen defenders of this country’s freedoms would say if asked, given our current national circumstances, whether their sacrifice has paid off.
To be sure, Americans have been bitterly divided before, the Civil War being the most obvious example. But that was hardly the only threat to the union over the past 246 years.
Other periods of extreme social and political discord have come close to breaking up the union, going back to the late 1700s when even George Washington was accused by his opposition of debauching the nation.
The political battles of that period between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans were such that even in 1798, according to UShistory.org, “most people believed that their political enemies would destroy the nation if allowed to hold power.”
Which brings us to our current state of affairs where “the good of the country” continues to mean “the good of the country … as we see it, whether you like it or not.”
That’s a sorry situation indeed, when hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen have died defending the principles of a democratic republic that we don’t seem to appreciate or want. They sacrificed everything, and we … well, not so much.
The truth is we want what we’ve always wanted: to hold power over the people with whom we disagree. And we’ll say and do just about anything to get it. We really ought to be ashamed of ourselves for not having come any farther than that over the last two-and-a-half centuries.
On this Memorial Day, we should reflect on what the fallen have done for us and how we have responded. Maybe that’s the problem — maybe those we lost and those we honor this one weekend of the year were the best of us.
If that’s so, the least we could do is show our respect to them by respecting the institutions they died defending.
And maybe we could do a better job. That would be the memorial they truly deserve, and one that is perhaps even worth dying for.