Most of us experience Memorial Day weekend as a festive time for families and the unofficial beginning of Summer. Campgrounds and parks are choked with vacationers enjoying the fresh air and bright sunshine. Not that I really want to rain on your parade, but I chose this dark scene of an impending thunderstorm in Bend, Oregon as reminder that Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was established as a federal holiday in 1867 to honor the Union dead after the Civil War and to focus on the terrible loss of life caused by war. It is noteworthy that the holiday only meant to exclusively honor the Northern soldiers, so much was there antipathy toward the South. Of course, the holiday wasn't observed in the South, because no one there wanted to pay homage to the Yankee dead.
The organizer of the first Decoration Day event wrote .."Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation's gratitude—the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."
The name Memorial Day became official after WWII and the tradition of going to the cemetery and placing flags and flowers continues, but the true purpose of the holiday is overshadowed by the drone of race cars and the juicy odor of the barbecue.
It is argued that there are fewer conflicts in the world than in earlier times and that as a people we are making progress toward resolving them through peaceful resolutions. As Benjamin Franklin said.. "There never was a good war or a bad peace" So on this Memorial Day I think we should reflect a moment on these deeper issues as we enjoy our fortunate moments of tranquility.