Friday, May 23, 2008
During the last weekend of May, citizens in the U.S. observe Memorial Day Weekend. We honor the men and women who have died while serving in our military, and we do so in a variety of respectful, honorable ways. Monday is Memorial Day proper, and in observance of this important day I am inviting our friends abroad to peek inside this commemorative event with me, your pal on the inside. Please, enjoy a slice of our apple pie. It's still warm!
One of the most important things we do as Americans on Memorial Day is to take the day off. In the U.S., most businesses close this Monday, with the exception of grocery stores, hospitals, wholesale mattress outlets and fast-food restaurants. All ATM’s will remain fully functional.
To honor our service members who have died, we have dedicated the weekend to backyard barbeques (while some others attend actual memorial services and lay wreaths on graves). Citizens grilling food this weekend are having what one might call an "outdoor wake”. At a wake, food is an important ingredient to lend comfort in times of grieving. All types of meat are represented on picnic tables on Memorial Day, as well as baked beans, potato salad, Jell-O pies, and beverages. Guests to the BBQ are invited to bring a dish to pass (cubed cheeses, chopped vegetables, a nice dip, napkins etc.). Casual dress is appropriate. Flag pins are optional, except when they are required.
Later in the day, we have parades featuring military veterans in uniform, who have made incredible sacrifices for the greater good. Following them will be children on wagons carrying boom-box radios, and local merchants (including Joe’s Bar & Grill, Sunbaked Tanning Salon and Little Debbie’s Dance Studio, among others and etc.).
America will be spending time with their loved ones this weekend. Many of them will not be discussing the two wars we have started, which are currently taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. is a vast and complicated nation, one that is intensely loyal and yet often oblivious. We are obsessed with lapel pins and bumper stickers, as much as we are distracted by our own lives and the importance of our day off work. Memorial Day has been set aside because we needed a mandate to remind citizens that freedom is not for free.
Without irony, I extend my thanks to our fallen service members who have died. They were the ones who were willing to trade their lives for peace. In their memory, I offer my sincere hope that our nation will honor those men and women by demanding that our leaders only send our military to fight because it is the last option.
Bring our troops home, Mr. Bush. We would prefer their company in our backyards and parades, and not over there.