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What's This Memorial Day Thing?

Well, it's that time of year again. The grass needs a weekly mowing, flowers are blooming, pollen is wreaking havoc with everyone - much to the delight of the manufacturers of Claritin and those of their ilk - and the temperature is rising (then falling again), and rising. Summer is just around the corner it seems.

That means only one thing, aside from schools letting out for summer break, it's time for Memorial Day!

Yes, it is that magical day of cul-de-sac, cargo short-clad grillers flipping burgers and wieners, as well as hot dogs, deeply discounted prices on mattresses and refrigerators, and everything that screams, "Hey! It's a long weekend! Let's drink!" (with the exception of Anheuser-Busch libations, of course. Because, you know, freedom, individuality and shit.)

Now, you may be thinking, "Hey! That's not what Memorial Day is about, Jeff. May I suggest you reflect upon your words." And, to that, I'd concur (that means that I agree, by the way). The long weekend isn't about wieners, beer, or refrigerators. It's about sacrifice.

Wouldn't you agree? Sacrifice. That word has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? Just think of all of those who sacrificed themselves for their homeland. Most sacrificed willingly, yet had found themselves in a situation that had been thrust upon them. That screams, kill or be killed.

You may be shedding a tear this very moment at the thought of a brave man or woman sacrificing himself or herself, possibly in a gruesome manner, with the only objective being to preserve the freedoms they cherished and the land they viewed as home.

But, I very much doubt you knew one of these brave men or women.

"What's that," you ask? "I most certainly did know one these fine people. Many of them, in fact."

I beg to differ. But before you get your fatigues and skivvies in a crisply-folded wad, allow me elaborate.

Memorial Day is certainly a day of remembrance in the good 'ol U.S. of A. There have certainly been hundreds of thousands of men and women once enlisted in this corporation's - oops, I mean, government's - military ranks who have met their demise on and off the battlefields for the past 248 years or so. And honestly, for the most part, their intentions and motivations were admirable, and appreciated. How willingly they were to participate in the numerous (and ongoing) wars and skirmishes we may never know.

Face it, the men and women we've been 'memorializing' since 1971 - when Memorial Day was designated a recognized holiday ('holiday' being an irony in and of itself) in most part chose to serve their government willingly to protect our freedoms (another irony for another day) and this country, which, by the way, is rumored to be the only country in the world that is blessed by a deity. C'mon, you know what I mean. Those men and women are remembered every day by family, friends, colleagues, and so on. Deity bless 'em (hand over heart and hat off).

But, this isn't about those men and women, who without doubt should be remembered. No, there's another demographic that far more greatly deserves a Memorial Day recognition.

There are no cul-de-sac wiener turning, burger-flipping, cornhole tournament celebrations culminating in a grand fireworks display for the ones who truly sacrificed themselves for this land and true freedom. "What is this travesty you speak of," you may ask? "You spout words of treason!"

To that I respond with a heartfelt and resounding, "Pffffftttt" raspberry with lots of saliva.

There are those who live amongst us that truly believe that Jesus was white, politicians are honest, Fred Flintstone was a real person, and this country belongs to an entity which has the misleading moniker of the 'United States'. Others would argue by saying, "Hell, we beat them redcoats to own this country." Think for a moment. There are far too many people who still hold a grudge against Abraham Lincoln and anything north of the Mason-Dixon Line for deity's sake.

Sadly, the ones who should be memorialized for true sacrifice aren't even considered to be 'american' (the small 'a' was intentional) by most. These are the ones who have been marginalized, ostracized, murdered, and in large part, forgotten. They are also the ones who truly knew the definition of, and the feeling associated with, real freedom. They are also the ones who loved their homeland - THE land. Not a country with imaginary boundaries that now forms fifty separate squabbling entities, but the Land with a capital 'L'. The true land of the free.

There is a preponderance of individuals and groups of individuals that epitomize Memorial Day - a memorial day without blowout sales at big-box stores, fireworks, burnt wieners and burgers, or boycotted beer. These groups and individuals didn't own this country. Hell, it wasn't even a country when they inhabited the land. These people valued freedom, nature, acceptance, and life. These people lived with the land, not on the land.

You may have an idea by this point in my narrative who I'm alluding to. If not, here are some names, groups, and sacrifices to Google.

  • Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce nation.

  • Crazy Horse of the Oglala Lakota

  • The entire Cherokee Nation

  • Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota

  • The entire Sioux Nation

  • The Battle of Wounded Knee

  • Chief Powhatan and the Algonquians

There are far too many to mention here. But the true sacrifices made by these and so many others, are innumerable. There was no differentiation between the ones who fought for their freedom and land, and those who naively chose to seek peaceful coexistence. Murdered, relocated, 'americanized' (again, an intentional lower-case 'a'), and everything these people held sacred - much as most people nowadays do with baseball, McDonalds, and cul-de-sac barbeques - was taken from them. The Land, their freedom, their dignity, their sense of self, all gone, taken by those who we now revere as heroes.

Here's the kicker, however. The land is still the Land. Those state boundaries are always going to be invisible. The freedoms of those who sacrificed everything are still there, though they're not recognizable by the ones today who espouse freedom. And, that deity who only blesses this country and flips off the remainder of the world with the New Jersey state bird? I'm fairly certain that that deity knows what sacrifice truly is and knows the difference between sacrifice for money and power, and sacrifice for self-preservation, true freedom, and acceptance.

Chew on that before you slather your wiener and burger with ketchup and mustard.

Peace. (Look it up).

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