On Memorial Day

As a culture, we have some missteps when it comes to observances like Memorial Day. To be sure, I don’t think I get it 100% right. I do perceive the difference between today and Veteran’s Day. I’m aware of its development from remembrances following the US Civil War. I can distinguish the importance of honoring individuals who died for a cause they believed in, and opposing the whole notion of war. Naturally, I don’t see a conflict between being a pacifist and remembering and lamenting the human carnage of large-scale violence.

American civil religion today may be in something of a schism along the lines of honor, money, and sport. Television surfing the other day, I noticed camo caps on MLB players. Complaining on a few fronts about dropping 40 bucks a hat, and tweeted encouragement to buy:

Today is about honor and respect. Tip your @neweracap to those who’ve sacrificed to keep us safe #MemorialDay

Buying special headwear doesn’t seem all that different from buying a ticket to see a game on a day off that happens to remember fallen soldiers. Does it matter if one has spent quality time in church, at a local cemetery, attending or even marching in a parade, or in prayer thinking about a deceased loved one or comrade? Is there a problem dressing athlete-entertainers in military shades of green, even if they’ve never served in the military? Does it matter if the item for sale is made in China as one Twitter critic charges? Is it acceptable if some or all proceeds go to charity, as MLB suggests? Would it have to be a financial boon for widows and orphans of war?

If today is something along the lines of a national lament, what Catholics would consider a violet day, maybe there’s something to say against things like sporting events linked to Memorial Day, or even the whole weekend? Would it have helped Terry Frei avoid, in his own words, a “foul-up”?

I don’t follow auto racing, not even when it’s been scheduled to coincide with an American ember day. Non-Americans come to the US and win our sporting events. Some of us go overseas and win on the road, too. It doesn’t seem a big deal to me.

That said, 72 years is a long time to simmer uncomfortably, and if the United States lasts long enough, I’m sure that every corner in the rest of the world will, at one time or another, be our enemy. I also happen to disagree with what I perceive as a Republican policy of firing a person or getting someone fired to salve a bit of outrage or placate protesters. Aside from one intemperate remark, Mr Frei seems to be competent at his job. He should get to keep it. He can write a decent apology, unlike many Americans. Either way, of course, people will be cancelling their subscriptions to his news organ or his Twitter feed. I guess the shareholders will want to see some action that isn’t a parade. Looks like intolerance in red-white-n-blue mugs for everybody.

I vote we try this again next year and see if we can aspire to something better. Athletes, those who write about them, those who publish said writings, and those who read up on it all.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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