Memorial Day has come and passed. For many people, the day marks the unofficial beginning of Summer and is celebrated with outdoor activities galore. However, many of us know few details about the official reason for the holiday other than it is a day set aside to honor those who lost their lives in battle. According to the website www.usmemorialday.org, “Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.” How many of us honored those who fell for our country?
I remember my parents – my father in particular who served in the Army during the Korean War (but was stationed in Germany) – used to always make sure he had a flag hanging from our house on those special days ie. Memorial Day, July 4th, etc. Many of our neighbors did the same thing. I liked walking along and seeing all the flags up and felt a certain pride in my family and in the country. However, not only do I not put up a flag at my own house on those special days, I forgot we even had a flag in my house till my wife reminded me. My only celebration of the holiday that in any way hearkens to its original intention is to go to the parade in the small town my family and I reside in. The local fire company, policemen, etc. march along with the veterans. I clap out of respect when the veterans pass along the parade route.
I consider myself a patriotic person and feel proud to be an American. My background is right out of a history book and can be told to the tune of G-d Bless America in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Here is the short version: my maternal grandparents, along with their immediate families, escaped from their small shtetels in Russia and ultimately came to America for religious freedom and economic opportunity. For my father’s side, change grandparents to great-grandparents, and the rest is the same. Therefore, I have every reason to be grateful to this country and those who lost their lives while battling its wars.
SY and I were walking to synagogue just before Memorial Day. A funeral home is on our route and it was covered in American Flags. I asked my son what did he see and when he said the American Flag. I proceeded to ask him if he knew why there was so many. He did not know. Not surprising. I tried to explain a bit about Memorial Day and what it means to be patriotic.
In the high school where I teach, the pledge of allegiance is read aloud over the PA system. Prior to reading the pledge, the reader asks that everyone stand. In my nearly 9 full years of teaching, I have never seen any person get up other than a few freshmen who stop standing before it hits October. I, on the other hand, stop class, stand up and face the flag. The class which is made up of 100% minorities, many of whom are first or second-generation Americans, are completely disinterested. When President Obama, a man of a mixed racial background became President, I hoped that students would be inspired. They were for a few days – wearing buttons and proudly watching the inauguration. However, that enthusiasm has waned and the students have lost what little interest they had in the country they now call home.
So, I wonder about the drop off in patriotism. Will the next generation feel any pride in their country? If so, how will they express it? What can I do as a parent and a teacher to instill that pride? I hope at a minimum they will recognize the great sacrifices that some have made and continue to make for this country, so that they can express pride while they freely take all the benefits that are available to them.
As a ‘Limey’ I obviously have no allegiance to the flag (yours at any rate) but echo your comments that irrespective of the level of patriotism they actually display as a minimum citizens of any country should always respect the sacrifices that others have gone through in an attempt to make their country a safer and better place to live.
Limey – where does that come from anyway? I think that should be the subject of one of your blogs. Btw, where do you come up with all those holidays you write about? I am curious to see your calendar.
Anyway, yes, people who made sacrifices for the betterment of others should be respected – whatever the sacrifice may be.
I class myself as very fortunate in that I have travelled extensively (not always fun trips but always memorable for one reason or another) – some are actual holidays taken with family or friends, some are extended business trips (if I get the chance I always add in a few days so I can see some of the country I am actually visiting. There is nothing worse than going to a country and all that you get to see is the interior of their airport, their taxis, their hotel rooms and their offices).
As for ‘Limey’ I think at some point I should take you up on your suggestion – I won’t tell you when though just to make sure you keep reading 🙂
I am looking forward to the limey post – feel free to credit me. I’m good like that.
Btw, when I had the opportunity to do some traveling in my post college days, I liked to go to supermarkets. Weird – I know but anyway, I think you can learn about the people by seeing what they have at the supermarket. Actually very weird.
Why do I have this image of you as Mr. Kotter?
Btw, I had an article published in a magazine recently (201 Family). You get mentioned. Before you ask – no, you are not getting royalties.
I’d like to be optimistic and think that the ‘kids these days’ are just as affected by peer pressure as the kids were when I was their age. I’m sure that if the Pledge were read in my high school, and no other student were standing, I’m sorry to say that I most likely would not stand either. And this from a kid who read Military History as much as possible when I was in high school too! So hopefully they will change as they get older and can think for themselves.
However, I do think our national leaders, of both parties, should be more involved in inspiring patriotism, sometimes it seems as though they are embarrassed by the idea of patriotism. Is there a national leader who can inspire patriotism ? i can’t think of any.
I hope you are right. Peer pressure and the desire to fit in are certainly strong.
I’m not sure what the national leaders can do to inspire patriotism.
Thanks for reading and your reply.