Memorial Day 2008 came and went, and as you can tell from my post below, for our family it was a time of joy and celebration because my son came home. But for a lot of other families, it was a time to remember and grieve. It was a time to reflect and renew. It was a time to gather and rededicate. Even as our family celebrated the return of our Marine from the crucible of the Long War, we did understand that it was Memorial Day and we did take time to give thanks and recognize those who have given all in our prayers and in discussions. It was also something to see everyone at the National’s Ballpark stand in absolute silence for a National Moment of Remembrance. I know that these things are minor and that our family’s focus was on celebrating our reunion with our son; but we didn’t forget. Lest you think I sound defensive, I don’t regret a minute of our celebration (although I’m still recovering). I do want to comment on something Garrison Keillor wrote about the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day weekend.
You remember who Garrison Keillor is, don’t you. He’s the guy from NPR famous for the mellow voice and the “down home” stories from the “Prairie Home Companion.” Anyway, this guy wrote an editorial published in a couple of places called “The Roar of Hollow Patriotism.” (Check it out here and here.) I agree with Yankee Mom (the blogger from whom I “appropriated” the idea for this post), you just have to go to one of these links and read the whole thing and “behold elitist liberal intellectual snobbery in all it’s glory.”
Once you read the editorial, you realize that Mr. Keillor’s problem is not so much with the Rolling Thunder Rally, or with the idea of celebrating Memorial Day. His problem is that he wanted to go to the Art Museum to look at paintings (I guess that’s something the intellectual elite do to exercise their patriotic love of country and to honor the sacrifice of those who have given their lives for their country . . . stare at paintings of people in rowboats) and he had to wait for three-hundred thousand bikers to finish their flag-waving, horn honking, engine-revving parade before he could cross the street. Poor Mr. Keillor. Fortunately, a gap developed after about 20 minutes, so he and a “mob” of other pedestrians could literally stop the parade so they could re-enter civilization and leave the madding hoards of motorcycle-riding barbarians behind them. Mr. Keillor slams those motorcycle-riding barbarians as seemingly uncaring about our war dead, and more interested in being seen and playing soldier, saying they were more interested in “making a great hullaballoo without exposing themselves to danger, other than getting drunk and falling off a bike.” He says they could learn more about our war dead by reading books.
Sorry Mr. Keillor. I would imagine that many of those motorcycle-riding barbarians know, personally, more about war and our war dead than anyone could gain from reading bland words on bland paper or even from watching movies made in Hollywood. Many of those barbarians are war veterans, with real-life experience with war and our war dead. They know, personally, what bland words on bland paper cannot, and will never, convey. They understand, in a way, Mr. Keillor, that you do not. What you also do not understand, Mr. Keillor, is that in the act of coming together to recognize shared experiences; like service and sacrifice, these men (these barbarians) remember. And in remembering they honor.
We should, in turn, recognize and honor them rather than belittle them as barbarians. We should follow the example of SSgt Tim Chambers, the lone Marine, who stands in his dress blues, at attention, at the intersection of two streets for over 45 minutes, saluting the entire flag-waving, horn honking, engine-revving parade of three-hundred thousand bikers as it rolls by.
That, Mr. Keillor, is what Memorial Day is all about. Not about seeking civilization in front of Renoir’s ballerina or Monet’s children in an exercise of intellectual oneness with self. Although I agree that beautiful art can lift a person up “from the mishmash of life,” there is a time when you need to remember alone and a time when you need to remember together. For me and my family, this year, Memorial Day was a time to come together and celebrate the return of our Marine from a land in conflict. For our Country, Memorial Day should be, and often isn’t, a time to come together remember. For these motorcycle-riding men and women, Memorial Day and Rolling Thunder was a time for them to remember together. Do not belittle them, for they have earned it.
1 year ago