In the US, as I suspect most of my readers will know, Memorial Day is a federal holiday for remembering those men and women who died while serving in the armed forces.
So I’m more than a little perplexed by the “Happy Memorial Day!” posts on my various social media feeds.
And, despite my many years working in the retail industry, I truly don’t understand how this somber occasion turned into a day of big sales at the mall and at the strip centers and mega-stores that dot our landscape.
Maybe the festive barbecue on the back porch is a way of showing gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy? Perhaps getting a handbag or golf shirt at Macy’s for 40% off (when you use your Macy’s card!) is the best evidence of American exceptionalism? Or maybe if we don’t buy, buy, buy the terrorists win?
I haven’t lost a loved one in a war. Through sheer luck–and choice–I didn’t serve in the military. Thankfully, I haven’t found myself routinely put in harm’s way and enduring the fear and suffering of those in war zones . I don’t pretend to come close to fully grasping the horrors and sacrifices so very many have made.
I do know that far too many have died, been maimed and traumatized. Some causes have been noble, many others can only charitably be labeled exercises in futility.
Maybe using this day to go out and buy stuff we most likely don’t need is some sort of patriotic exercise.
Or maybe it’s merely an easy way of taking our mind off the brutal reality of conflict, war and death.
Of course, it could be that our seemingly never-ending desire to consume more and more is part of the fuel that leads to more conflict, more war, more death.
In remembering the fallen, I feel a gratitude that is impossible to express and a sadness that no “thing” can erase.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, today they celebrate the birthday of the Buddha. Some times the irony is just too rich.