As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” More than a million soldiers, sailors, and marines have laid down their lives for the cause of self-governance and in defense of our republic’s Constitution.
Since the late 1860s, we have set aside a day of national remembrance. Yet I fear we have actually stopped remembering. We have allowed Memorial Day to devolve into a long weekend of mattress sales and cook-outs.
To justify our national forgetfulness, we smugly – and, yes, correctly – assert that our rights to life, liberty, and property are endowed by God. Yet we gloss past the stark reality that securing those rights has fallen to men and women willing to battle enemy forces intent on destroying the glorious American experiment in self-governance.
We have lived in the liberty their ultimate sacrifice made possible. We have slept easily at night under the protection of men and women who stand willing to give their lives for our liberty.
The love showed to us by those patriots has not exactly been spurned, but gets treated like a trinket without too much examination of its implication.
Our callous approach to Memorial Day is just another symptom of our national disregard for the work of self-governance in preserving liberty. The last year has shown how easily too many of our countrymen will sacrifice their rights for the thinnest veneer of “protection.”
We don’t want to consider the teenagers and twenty-somethings – crammed into landing craft – who died at Normandy, because then we would have to confront the shallowness of college campuses creating “safe spaces” from debate.
We don’t want to dwell on the thousands of Americans who have been killed in the ongoing War on Terror, because we might have to consider the policies we have allowed at home sacrificing small businesses on the irrational altar of COVID response.
It is undoubtedly easier to enjoy a beer and burger in the backyard than to reflect on the sacrifices made on our behalf – often before we were ever born, by men who would only be known as “the uncle who died in the war.”
Yet reflect, dwell, and consider we must. If we are to give up our liberties and adorn our ankles with the soft chains of tyranny, what was the point of their sacrifice. Did they die for a lost cause, or to give us the opportunity to be better, to be more?
I choose to believe our best days as a republic are ahead of us, and that our honored dead paid for that future with their lives. Let’s not squander their gift.