Memorial Day Reflections on the Unheralded Souls Who Died for our Freedom
Blue Sunday: Honoring Our Forgotten War Dead
I’m hardly one who would lament the widely held notion that Memorial Day is the “Unofficial” Kick-off of summer — not in the least. In a nation where we’re over-worked and underpaid as a general rule, anytime you can take a break for a couple of days and kick back, fire up the grill and pack a cooler is fine by me. In fact, I start looking forward to the next Memorial Day Weekend the minute the alarm goes off on the Tuesday morning after Memorial Day each year.
For as long as I can remember, Memorial Day Weekend has been one of the highlights of the calendar each year. It’s a perfect storm of availability, an ideal climate, and indulgences that have led to some of my more memorable and enjoyable life experiences. This doesn’t overlook the fact that we celebrate Memorial Day for a reason, but if you’re capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, I don’t see any reason why you can’t celebrate and remember over the span of 72 hours as well. Over the past few years, in fact, I’ve made a conscious effort to do so.
But there’s a popular misconception that we’re all prone to believing: the notion that all of the wars fought to make America what she is today were fought on the battlefield — in defined military conflicts against enemies foreign and domestic. While these sacrifices should never, under any circumstances, be diminished, they do not account for all of the blood that has been shed in the name of forging that More Perfect Union.
Our Original Struggle Has Never Ended
The United States of America has been fighting wars since the Shot Heard ‘Round the World and continues to do so today. On top of the ongoing conflicts against terrorism, we continue to fight the same war that it seems some have been waging since the last signature on the Declaration of Independence had dried: The War on Intolerance. And unfortunately, It’s not a stretch to say that for the first time in our history, we appear to be losing it. While periods such as the Civil War and desegregation were flush with animosity, at their conclusions we emerged with expanded liberty and better living conditions for all than what we previously enjoyed.
In this nearly dystopian present, we find ourselves with a calculated attempt to roll back the progress of 240 years for people of color, women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and the American worker.
We did not evolve from a confederation of states ruled solely by white land (and people) owning Protestant males to a global superpower — one that has elected people of every race, creed, gender and orientation to just about every office in the land — by accident. Skulls were broken. Blood was spilled. Necks were cracked. These sacrifices are no less important than any other.
For every Battle of Trenton, there was a March on Selma. For every Stonewall Jackson, a Stonewall Inn. Each Ulysses Grant yields an Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Every Normandy, a Haymarket Square. Okinawa. Los Gatos.
We must never forget the bravery of the 5,000 Americans that we have lost in service this century. Likewise, teach your children about the 4,000 Americans lynched for simply existing.
‘Think Not Only Of Those Who Lie Beneath A White Cross, But Those Who Died In Front Of A Burning One’
Reflect on the all-too-short lives of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. The former, a local African-American civil rights worker in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The latter two, college kids from Jewish neighborhoods in New York, that traveled down to Lauderdale County to register local voters. All three were slaughtered at the hand of the Ku Klux Klan in their early twenties. They died to ensure that the most fundamental of American rights: The Right to Vote would be guaranteed to all, not the chosen.
This year, think not only of those who lie beneath a white cross, but those who died in front of a burning one.
Think of the 146 people, primarily women, who perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire — a sweatshop that was criminally negligent in the most basic of safety regulations, so much so that management locked all doors during work hours. Their deaths paved the way for a revamping of workplace standards that we take for granted today.
Likewise, never forget the collection of workers who died during organized rallies and strikes – often at the hands of private security firms backed by management – demanding fair wages, a 40-hour workweek, and suitable working conditions. Think long and hard about this the next time some corporate titan, or a politician in their pocket, chides “lazy unions”.
Read up on the 1948 plane crash at Los Gatos, California – where 30 migrant workers perished while being deported back to Mexico, not coincidentally AFTER their services in the fields were needed. In the era of Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and ICE raids, their story deserves to be told and remembered now more than ever.
We still use undocumented workers for every ounce of sweat they can produce while demonizing them as a political scapegoat, to the point where we might as well change the inscription on the Statue of Liberty from “Give me your tired, your poor…” to “We’re Building That Wall, Folks”.
Pause to remember Matthew Shepard this Memorial Day. Matthew was a college student who was fatally beaten, tortured and strung up on a fence. Simply for being gay. The grisly slaying brought to light the gross, Nazi-like hatred that the gay community still faces in modern times.
More recently, remember the 15 Emergency Medical Technicians, 23 members of the NYPD, 37 officers of the Port Authority, and 343 souls from the FDNY who gave their lives so that thousands more would survive the 9/11 attacks. They proved that despite the caricature, working-class Americans stand ready on a moment’s notice to serve the greater good. And at the end of the day, it’s not the politicians or management that’s responsible for our safety, security, and education – it’s your neighbor.
As the National Football League continues to embarrass itself in the ongoing National Anthem debate while the president attempts to use criticism of peaceful protest as a racist dog whistle, let us not lose sight of the origins of the demonstration. Innocent unarmed people of color are being murdered by police acting as judge, jury, and executioner. You know their names: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland.
Professional athletes have used the power of their brand and notoriety to call attention to this senseless phenomenon. Some have lost millions of dollars for doing so. They have asked of society is to come up with a solution to the crisis of these modern-day lynchings. In return, they’ve been called every name in the book — from barstools to the Oval Office.
We should be better than that by now.
I know I’m neglecting to mention thousands of people who gave their lives for rights that we take for granted. And again, this is in no way to diminish the ultimate sacrifice given to this nation by the brave warriors from Lexington & Concord to Fallujah – and all parts in between and across the globe – not only for American liberty but for that of the entire human race.
Much like the glorious melting pot that America is today, the rights and freedoms we enjoy today were provided by a diverse collection of people who would not take “No” for an answer, the minuscule minority willing to walk the walk. People of all faiths, genders, orientations, ethnicities, races and political ideologies have stepped to the front of the line when history came calling. Most of them braver than you or I could ever imagine being.
Some gave their lives on foreign beaches. Others, in their grandmother’s backyard. On Memorial Day, we remember each and every one of them.
Now That You Mention It…
•The National Football League is 100% clueless. They have ignored the wishes of not only their labor force, but an extensive segment of their customer base. I’m fully aware of the prevailing attitudes of those who “don’t want to hear about politics” when they sit down to watch a football game. Or the misguided notion that taking a knee during the anthem is an affront to veterans or the flag. But the league’s beleaguered commissioner, Roger Goodell, all but guaranteed that the issue would remain in the spotlight this fall with his edict that all personnel “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem“.
Allowing “demonstrators” to remain in the locker room during the playing of the Anthem will only turn the focus on to who’s on the field and who’s not. Media outlets will undoubtedly report who stayed behind, the way they ran running tallies of who stood, who knelt, who raised a fist and who linked arms last season. And just like last season, little to no attention will be given to the root causes of the demonstration.
The NFL spends most of October raising awareness for breast cancer. They honor veterans organizations the second weekend in November. Cancer and the issues that our veterans face are not political — they’re issues that most would agree need attention and problems that need solutions.
So is police brutality. There is no debate about whether or not unarmed people of color should be shot without due process. Despite the repeated failures of grand juries, it does, in fact, remain a felony.
Nor is there any ambiguity left about the travesty of mass incarceration. Bringing awareness to these issues is hardly about politics.
It’s about humanity. Something that the NFL continues to show an appalling lack of.
•It’s increasingly difficult to remain on top of the news these days. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. But Reverb Press‘s Suman Sridhar shed light on a major story that has garnered little-to-no attention this week and it’s something every American needs to hear about. Something he called “ too reminiscent of the disturbing torture experienced by prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison“:
Between 2009-2014, 30,000 pages worth of complaints were filed regarding abuse towards undocumented children by U.S. Border Patrol agents. After retrieving these records through a Freedom of Information lawsuit and going through them, the ACLU and International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School have officially published their analyses of the findings, and the results are not good.
Read this. Share this.
•Be honest. Did you REALLY think the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un was going to take place on June 12th? I didn’t think so.
•We’re a little more than 5 months away from the midterm elections — which has increasingly become the unofficial kickoff of the next presidential election cycle. Plus, we never know what the Mueller investigation will turn up (or more importantly, how congressional Republicans will digest the findings). It may seem like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. But for everything The Resistance may think it needs to undue to erase the Trump stain from our history, one task is getting increasingly overlooked and may take an entire generation (or more): The Trump/McConnell remaking of the federal judiciary.
This is the entire reason the Republican Party has played ball with this administration and sacrificed everything that it ever pretended to stand for.
•Two weeks ago, I mentioned how there was no better ensemble on television right now than the cast of “Billions”. And that was BEFORE John Malkovich joined the team. I’m trying not to depress myself by thinking about how only three episodes remain. I’m not sure when Showtime overtook HBO in terms of quality original programming, but I don’t think it’s up for debate anymore.
•Morgan Freeman and Boyd Tinsley as well? I guess we shouldn’t be surprised anymore. Can only hope that if the allegations against them (and many others) are true than full justice is served.
•One of these days I’m going to devote a weekend to making some of the mouthwatering “Tasty” recipes that continually show up in my Facebook feed. And if I show no restraint, it very well may be my last weekend. The magic they make with cheese…
•Two beers you should try at your barbecue this weekend. If you’re in the Northeast and can find dHop 9 by Equilibrium, you’re welcome in advance. On a national level, New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA will do you just fine. In both cases, make sure someone else has the keys as they both check in well above 8% ABV.
What Won Twitter This Week?
About the NFL and their compulsory patriotism…
H/T J. McNeill FB. pic.twitter.com/8aEOWtJvsh
— James Reader (@JamesReader_RP) May 23, 2018
Look mom! I’m listening to what the priest has to say!
You didn’t vote for Obama because of his “lack of character?“
You voted for Trump because a thrice married, serial adulterer, sexual deviant, racist demagogue who has sex with porn stars & pays them off and fantasizes about dating his own daughter demonstrates good “character?” https://t.co/G3287b5qJu
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) May 21, 2018
Nothing says “I wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars by not learning a damned thing in public schools” like using the word “Libtard.”
If being a 'libtard' means I want to stop kids from getting shot at school, that I think everyone should be able to marry the person they love, whether that person is a man or a woman, if it means I put science over religion, and equality over division, then I am a Rabid LIBTARD
— Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) May 19, 2018
Sad that such obvious facts bear repeating ad nauseam to counter the false White House narrative…
The special counsel investigation has produced almost 20 indictments, 5 guilty pleas—3 from Trump's team & 1 already serving jail time.
Defendants are facing 100+ criminal charges including conspiracy against the US, bank fraud, lying to FBI investigators & more. #NotAWitchHunt
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 24, 2018
A bit of irony, and a brilliant new marketing suggestion…
The NFL — come for the concussions, stay for the racism!!!
— Bachscore (@masapequaparkng) May 24, 2018
Defeat The Meme!
Do you get a kick out of the sheer nonsense embedded in every right-wing meme you see on the internet? Are you tired of starting a fact-check reply, only to realize there’s no point because you can’t reason with some people? Worry not. Each week I’ll pluck a conservative meme from the vast wasteland of Republican social media and debunk it in this space. Got a meme you want to see defeated? Send it here.
Songs Of Freedom
Building the ultimate #Resistance playlist, one week at a time. I’m always up for discovering unheralded protest songs, and if you have a recommendation, I’d love to hear it!
Bob Dylan turned 77 years young this week. America’s greatest songwriter is as important today as he was 54 years ago when this quintessential protest song was released. Here’s to many more, Mr. Tambourine Man.
And with that, our playlist is one second shy of the ten-minute mark!
Till next Sunday, my friends!