Memorial Day–Silence remains appropriate

On May 25, 2007 at 1:53 pm, I published the column “Memorial Day–an appropriate time for silence.” I have added some 2008 updates, but my feelings a year later remain unchanged. While people have the freedom to protest on Memorial Day, having the legal right to do so does not make it morally decent. For 24 hours, protesters should have the courage and humanity to just shut up. They can go back to being crazy as soon as Memorial Day ends. Below is why I believe in, as the song says, the sounds of silence.

“Many people in this world have had the misfortune of knowing somebody that they intensely disliked. For some it is the relative that overstays their welcome. For others, it is a rival in school or at work. For others sadly enough, it is those closest to them. Yet when tragedy befalls someone we dislike, the most noble of us resist the urge to feel glee at the permanent suffering of another. Even if we are delighted that a perceived obstacle to our happiness has been removed, we keep silent, and conduct ourselves with dignity. One thing we do not do is go to their funeral, and badmouth them. We leave them be.”

(2008 Update…I went to an actual funeral yesterday for a Holocaust survivor. Less than a month after I lost my grandmother, my close friend lost his grandfather, a man who had been very kind to me the few times I met him. Memorial Day is mainly for soldiers, but this year, the holiday is dedicated to the men and women of steel that defeated evil simply by surviving. To quote the Rabbi at the funeral…life won, and death lost.)

As we approach Memorial Day weekend, many individuals and families will be focusing on barbecues, sales at the malls, blockbuster summer movies, driving to see friends and family, and of course, sleeping in. These activities do not do anything to help society, but they do no harm as well. What is harmful is taking a solemn day and disrespecting it by dishonoring the people this holiday is for. If one wants to rant about war and soldiers, there is always Veteran’s Day (which is also tactless, but ever so slightly less so). Not Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a funeral. When people died at Pearl Harbor and on 9/11, we mourned respectfully. We must show the same respect for fallen military personnel as we do to fallen private citizens, because soldiers are citizens as well.

(2008 update…a friend of mine with politics that are diametrically opposed to mine led an antiwar protest at the beach yesterday. While I fiercely disagreed with his protest, I am glad he did it the day before Memorial Day, and not the actual day. That does matter to me. As I said, he is a good guy for doing so.)

There is talk of leading an anti-war protest march on Memorial Day. One can be against the War in Iraq and still be a patriotic dissenter (although horribly misguided and utterly wrong). Protesting against the war on Memorial Day simply makes one a disgusting human being. Period. There is a time and a place for everything, and people can either be narcissistic, self-absorbed garbage, or they can be civilized human beings.

(2008 Update–The people of Largo, Florida, have no interest in being civilized human beings.)

It does matter that some people may have disliked your mother. Other people loved her, and they do not want to hear about those who hated her at her funeral. People who loathe the military, hate war, and despise soldiers in general, should understand that many people love these people, and they don’t want to hear the hatred at the anniversary of their collective funerals.

(2008 Update…A protest outside the MGM Casino in Las Vegas has nothing to do with the Iraq War. The unions want better rules regarding tipping. Fine. Here is a tip. Pick a better day to settle a labor dispute, such as perhaps Labor Day. The antiwar protesters may be disgusting, but these protesters with regards to timing are just bizarre.)

Respectful people can agree to disagree about the War in Iraq, and yes, even about all war. Disrespectful people spit on people’s graves, whether literally or figuratively. Even many of those who disagree with the Iraq War would concede that The Revolutionary War of 1776, the Civil War in 1861, and World War II in 1941 were noble endeavors. In fact, World War II is often referred to as “the good war.” Protesting on Memorial Day dishonors all of those soldiers. There is no distinction. Memorial Day is for all the soldiers who died, or for none of them.

(2008 Update…one organization actually gets it…

How to Promote the Anti-War Movement on Memorial Day

By eHow Culture & Society Editor


“Keep the focus on honoring soldiers. Because of Memorial Day’s history of being a day of quiet and thoughtful remembrance, efforts to loudly protest war will likely be met with great hostility and may actually do more harm than good for your cause. Be polite and respectful to honor soldiers who have died and who are still serving in war.”)

Those who want to protest the week before or the week after, or any of the 360 days a year that do not fall on Memorial Day weekend, have plenty of time and ability to do so. It would be a strategic mistake politically, as well as a horrible act of wretchedness, to spend the one day reserved for heroes, and tarnishing it. For every soldier who may have disagreed with the mission that cost them their life, there are many more…let me say again…many more…soldiers that believed in what they were doing, and were accepting of the fact that their death came at the cost of a greater good.

We toss around words like “freedom” and “liberty” as if those are automatic in any society. They are not. American soldiers fought for them. They bled and died for them. It is reasonable to expect…nay, to demand…that we honor them by either providing beautiful tributes, or if unable to say anything positive, following our mothers’ advice and staying silent.

It is not patriotic to disrupt a funeral, or an anniversary of one. It is egomaniacal. If those who are against the Iraq War truly support the troops (which is odd since they despise their mission), they will leave well enough alone this weekend, and allow the deceased soldiers to rest in peace. After all, without them, there would be no peace at all. Soldiers fight wars so Americans can live in peace. It is time we return the favor for them.

(2008 Update…the following article from the American Legion in 2007 expresses my sentiments perfectly.)

May God bless the USA, and may every American soldier in every cemetery everywhere know that the world is a better place because of you. You are heroes, and America is the greatest nation on Earth because of you.

(2008 Update…The Wall Street Journal has a fabulous column today entitled “Protesting the antiwar protesters.”

For those who want to go above and beyond, do not wait until Veteran’s Day to honor those who survived. Many fallen soldiers want their surviving brothers and sisters to be given the love and support they need and deserve. So to those who fought and survived…”May God Bless you as well. Thank you, and welcome home.”


6 Responses to “Memorial Day–Silence remains appropriate”

  1. […] a year later remain unchanged. While people have the freedom to protest on memorial Day, having the Day observances set for today Stevens Point JournalHere is a schedule of local events for […]

  2. foutsc says:

    Thoughtful and well written. I agree completely.

  3. micky2 says:

    I am humbled in the precense of these great warriors.
    No matter what anyone says or thinks there is no denying that a man who is willing to lay his life on the line for his country or the better of others deserves at least one day a year if not 365 to be honored, and everything else but honor should be put aside.

    God bless you all gentlemen.
    Rest in peace.

  4. Memorial Day (a personal favorite of mine for personal reasons), is a day of remembrance (that’s why “Memorial”). When we remember things, we should try to remember them as clearly and accurately as possible and what we don’t remember we shouldn’t pretend to know without first trying to find out. We have to remember why we fought and for what we fought and why we should or shouldn’t have fought. When we forget what we are fighting for, we simply fight for the sake of fighting. Not by a long ways was every war fought in our name essential to the survival of our nation and “freedom.”

    Remember, it was not war that brought us America or maintained it all these years: it was the great ideas of great men and women. Without them, we’d just have been fighting for nothing if we were fighting, or could fight, at all.

    Happy Memorial Day. It’s a good holiday.


  5. Eagle 6 says:

    Memorial Day is not for remembering why we went to war…doing so simply creates different levels of honor for servicemen and women depending on whether they fought in wWII, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Mogadishu, Iraq, Afghanistan, or New Orleans… or didn’t fight at all! It is a day to remember Soldiers, active and reserve, who when they enlisted, wrote a blank check to US citizens – a check payable with their lives. I spent a great day with hundreds of US Soldiers in Baghdad Monday – Eric’s point is simple – silence is golden on this particular day should one disagree with US policies – because contrary to your final statement, this nation was founded on war – we beat up the English, Spanish, Indians, Russians and everyone else who impeded Manifest Destiny, and our freedoms, and those of our allies, have been maintained by war, not appeasement.

  6. I can happily say that on Memorial Day, at the post I drive by on a daily basis, the persistant weekend protesters at the front gate stayed home. For that I am thankful. On Memorial Day I think of my fallen friends, and those I never knew, and like to leave politics completely out of it. It was a good day.

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