Tomorrow is Memorial Day.
I never gave any thought to Memorial Day as a child. Never even really realized what it is. But now as an adult I understand it is the time we honor those who have given their lives in service to our country. It should be a time for patriotism at least as strongly as the Fourth of July, because Memorial Day not only commemorates the founding of our country (although it certainly includes that); it commemorates the people who made this country possible and preserved it.
It honors the people.
This is what is important for us to remember. The people are what this country is founded on, for and by, right? “Government of the people, for the people, and by the people.” Like it or not, this country is its Constitution — its government — and the government is the people. So we’ve dedicated a minor holiday in May to a select group who gave every bit of themselves for the rest of the people, both present and future.
The concern here is that the country, meaning the people who make it up, has changed. That’s to be expected, but it is what the country has changed into that is so concerning. A World War II veteran once discussed this. He pointed out that in World War II, men fled to Canada in order to enlist because they couldn’t get in the military here in this nation. Only 25 years later they were running to Canada in order to avoid being drafted over another war.
Politics aside, this still illustrates a vital difference in attitudes. It is around the 1960’s when our country started undergoing some startling, debilitating changes.
Only forty years ago the office of the president was nearly unilaterally respected and revered. Today it is the subject of mockery and almost universally associated with corruption, graft, and self-serving tricksters. What brought about this change of perception is not important, but there is a point about this that most people overlook. Remember the government is of, for, and by the people? The president, along with all the other elected officials so heavily criticized today, represents the people. When we look at our elected officials and see corruption, disreputable character, and vice, we should recognize that those qualities are in ourselves, as the people. We chose them. We put them there. They are what we wanted our leaders to be like.
There’s a mathematical process that shows this: corrupt elected officials = the government. The government = the people. The people = corruption. It’s not a nameless bureaucracy that is the problem in this country.
It is the people.
If we want to change the situation our country, our government, our people are in. We need to change ourselves. Until we accept personal responsibility and accountability, nothing will change in this society. More cops, bigger jails, metal detectors at schools, anti-abortion laws, teen pregnancy education, drug education, curfews, and all the legislation in the world don’t mean anything if the people are not willing to abide by lawful government and act responsibly. Ezra Taft Benson, former Secretary of Agriculture, said, “decaying cities are simply a delayed reflection of decaying individuals . . . improvement of the individual [is] the only real way to bring about the real improvement of society.” In other words, the cities in this country are such a problem because the individuals who live in the are problems.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. If we truly honor and respect those who gave everything to allow me the privilege to even write this, and for you to read the same, than we will do more than place a few flowers on gravestones at the local cemetery, or watch another showing of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or listen to a few Sousa marches. We will do something to improve ourselves and act to improve someone else. This is the duty we owe to those we commemorate, ourselves, our society, and our posterity.