Today is Memorial Day, traditionally a day of entitlement. It’s the day we use to mark the beginning of summer, and fill it with time off from work, and with beaches and barbecue. I believe that was the intent even at the beginning, in the aftermath of the Civil War.
What? This is a day set aside to remember those who have lost their lives in military service to our country? To those who have paid, as we like to say, the ultimate sacrifice?
I have friends, like Bob and Rita, who actually use their Memorial Day for this very thing. Bob, a Vietnam veteran, and Rita, whose first husband was and whose son is career military, spend every Memorial Day but this one participating in the ceremony at our cemetery. The ceremony will be limited this year — many of the spectators who usually come are transported from the senior living facilities in our community, and during Pandemia this seems like a bad idea.
So let’s talk about Pandemia and service to country. Military service has not been compulsory since Bob was serving over in Vietnam. I have a Selective Service number, as I believe is still required for all young men (and ought to be required, if we’re requiring, of all young women as well), but that’s as far as it goes.
During World War II all Americans were asked to scrimp and save, even be rationed, and while we like to think every American willingly did his or her part, I’ve had one of my older friends complain about government overreach and assure me everything was more plentiful than the government said.
By the time the Iraq conflict rolled around, and our economy had undergone a fundamental shift, the sacrifice requested of all of us was that we go shopping. Although this was difficult, Americans rose to the challenge, and for the most part it was easy to go on with our very American lives with nothing more than an occasional glance at the television, where other people were shooting and being shot at.
Now our newest “wartime president” (self proclaimed, of course) is taking on an enemy he doesn’t even really think exists. And for once, he might be right. This is not a war; it is a pandemic. And this is not an enemy; it is a virus. “Vanquish” is still the goal, but guns are going to get us precisely nowhere.
And talk of sacrifice for the greater good appears to have gone altogether.
To be sure, this “wartime president” has never asked that of his constituents. The notion of “sacrifice” seems completely wasted on this puny little man with an ego so big it fills our vast country. I don’t think it’s a headline that plays well: “President golfs as death toll nears 100,000.” (This same president once took Barack Obama to task for golfing when two people were said to have died of Ebola.)
He has asked people to put themselves in harm’s way, but not out of any noble sense: “his” economy has tanked, purposely crashed in an effort to keep a virulent virus from spreading, and the only way this works for him is if the economic numbers pick back up as steeply as they declined.
So, drink bleach. Go to Easter services. Go to any services, because as any serial adulterer knows, we all could use more religion. Open your business full bore. Go to your state capitol and wave your guns around, very good people, because every Democrat out there is focusing foremost on taking away your god-given right to protect your potatoes. (Yes, this is true: the president is very worried about Virginians not being able to protect their potatoes at gunpoint.)
Go to the beaches, Americans! It is Memorial Day and this is your birthright. Don’t forget to invite your every acquaintance to the afternoon barbecue. But whatever you do, don’t undertake a sacrifice that might actually mean something, that might actually be helpful: don’t stay at home. Don’t wear a facemask. Don’t stay six feet apart from your fellow Americans. Why should we ask this of you when we can all be golfing instead?
I will give you 96,780 reasons why you should consider a personal sacrifice this Memorial Day. Sure, that’s a statistically insignificant number compared to the total Americans — until you personally know even one of those 96,780 Americans confirmed to have lost their lives due to covid-19.
Lynn had a postal patron, suggesting the hoax this virus truly is, ask if she even knew anyone who has had it. Why yes, it turns out, and the number of our friends and acquaintances keeps growing. It has lasted at least a month for each of them, and effects continue to linger for some.
And then there is Bob Teitler, who is one of the 96,780. His death orphaned his 17-year-old daughter and deprived the Gunnison Valley of one of the many who make this such an interesting and vibrant community.
This virus is real and it is deadly. We ought to be using all the tools in our arsenal to combat it, and at the statewide level that’s what most of our country is doing. Nationally, however, there is a paucity of leadership. It goes further than that, to unleadership: here is how not to take on a virus.
Sadly, too many Americans are heeding this uncall, in what is bound to end, for some, with that ultimate sacrifice, one that seems to be completely senseless. A trip to the beach is certainly worth that.
As Bob and Rita know, Memorial Day is about remembering those who have put their country above all else. But it ought to be incumbent on all Americans to consider how they best can sacrifice for the greater good of the country — to ask what we can do for our country, as a real wartime president once advised.
I’m pretty sure stuffing a hot dog in your maskless face while reveling right next to your fellow beach-goers is not the call to duty it might first seem, although it could be hard to really know. The science isn’t really there; scientists aren’t really real, and somewhere out there is the man who would be president, and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether you or any of us die. Happy Memorial Day, one and all.