Paul Greenberg on Memorial Day

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Remember the living as well as the dead, writes Paul Greenberg:

There is nothing we can do for the dead now, but there is much we can do for the living. We can ask where they are, and how they fare, and see that they, and their families, are cared for. And when they are stacked in hospitals like so much cordwood, put out of sight like something indecent, we can demand more than a few showy dismissals of those who were supposed to be in charge.

We can ask, we can demand to know, what is being done for them and theirs. Now. For people do not live in some abstract realm - like the past or in politicians' speeches or on the television screen - but in the here and very now. In waiting rooms. In hospital wards. In veterans' homes.

Let this be a memorial day for the living, too. And let us live it, too. For today is also a day for family picnics and block parties, for good times as well as solemn rituals, a day to make the most of.

Today's mix of joy and sorrow, the quick and the dead, the grief and pride - it is all as it should be. Life is to be celebrated even as we remember the dead.

It is a day for laughter. Laughter is a better memorial than tears. It is the ordinary sounds - of children at play, of families uniting, of old stories retold - that are the best memorial. For it is the ordinary joys of freedom, not the grandiloquent ideals, that generations sacrificed to assure. So that Americans can walk the way we do - openly, freely, unafraid, even blessedly unaware. So that we can look one another in the eye and say what we think. So that any man can look his boss in the eye and tell him to go to hell. And any woman do the same. So we can strike roots where we are or light out for the territories. For this is a big country, and all of it is still the land of opportunity. This is the land where freedom grows. This is its native soil, its natural habitat. It thrives here. But not, as this day reminds, without sacrifice.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 28, 2007 11:50 PM.

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