Yesterday was Memorial Day. In these parts, Memorial Day is known as the unofficial start of summer and the official start of tourist season at the Jersey Shore. That’s what all the local news programs were talking about last night.
Oh, there were mentions of what the holiday really means, but what it really really means to most Americans these days is just fun in the sun, a day off from work.
As I monitored my Facebook feed on Monday, I saw lots of cute ladies in bikinis, lots of pictures of burgers and flaming grills, some residual gay-marriage-is-legal-in-Pennsylvania celebratory posts. Oh, and of course there was the Kim and Kanye wedding coverage. I'm sure there were more, but I can only recall seeing two Facebook mentions of those who died in service to our country.
I was no better. I spent the day at a backyard pool party in South Jersey, posting photos of barbecue sauce-slathered pork ribs and a box of that water ice with the gum ball in the bottom. I drank some Coors Banquet Beer and overheard one veteran at the party lamenting the fact that the local legion couldn't manage to pull together a Memorial Day parade.
Now, I didn't ignore the holiday entirely. In the morning, as I got myself ready for the pool party, I cornered the kids during LEGO play for the obligatory two-minute "Do you know why you have off from school today?" conversation.
My 6-year-old daughter proudly stood up and said, "I know! It's because of the people who thought for our country!" I said, "Oh, you mean 'fought,' honey. The people who fought for our country." "No, no, no," she protested. She was sure it was "thought." Obviously, they really hammered that lesson home in class.
They spend a month learning about Martin Luther King (which is a great thing, of course). But who wants to talk about dead soldiers, the men and women who have done our nation's dirty work and had their heads and limbs blown off by IEDs in the process, fighting wars that we're not sure they should have been fighting in the first place, right?
I briefly tried to explain to the kids that Memorial Day is a day to remember the people who died fighting for our country, a day where they should reflect upon how lucky they are to be free (whatever free means these days) and to think about the people who made that all possible by sacrificing their lives. They kind of stared at me blankly, not really convinced that I myself was convinced of all of that.
Google didn't even bother to do a Google Doodle in commemoration of the holiday. Descendants of marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Louise Carson must be pleased to know that there's a Google Doodle today in honor of her 107th birthday (she died back in 1964). But the world's most valuable company couldn't throw an American flag up in honor of the 430,000 or so United States soldiers killed in combat since World War I, which, of course, doesn't include the 83,281 who are still M.I.A.
Google should feel at least a little bit ashamed of itself. I know I do.
UPDATE: Google did not have a Memorial Day Doodle, but the company did post a small ribbon under the search box on Monday afternoon.
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