When we pause to pay homage to those who gave so much to create this unique nation which we are all so privileged to call our home, I think it crosses our minds to question whether this current generation of Americans would be up to the task, if we were called on to be as brave and selfless as they were. I believe that there is a strong tendency to fear that, if we were, we’d be found wanting.
In the 1700s, when King George III, King of England, failed to grant to us American colonists the privileges afforded to Englishmen living in England, we signed our names to documents, tantamount to signing our own death warrants. We formed rag-tag militias and armies, and took on the most powerful military force on earth, rather than knuckle under to an unjust curtailment of our liberties.
In the 1800s, when the American states disagreed on the direction of our nation, the people of both North and South gave up the comforts of home and took on the prospect of death, for the principles each side held to be inviolable.
In the 1900s, when the world went to war to insure that mankind would live free and that “might not make right,” former generations of Americans laid their earthly treasure and their lives on the line, to counter tyranny.
These are some of the examples where Americans rose to daunting challenges, no doubt fearing for their lives, but committing their all for just causes. Now to us today, there is a tendency for us to greet the coming of a holiday without considering the reason that day was set aside in the first place, as a day of contemplation. That is immature on our part, but fully understandable.
But, such holidays remain meaningful because seasons of life change. When everything is running smoothly, we are relaxed and let things slide. However, when nothing is normal, such as these days with Covid-19, we become a lot more contemplative, and better able to see life as earlier generations of Americans did in their trials.
So what about us? Are we the wusses which we tend to think of ourselves as being, or are we made of sterner stuff? Clearly, we are made of very stern stuff, and our medical professionals demonstrate that to us all in spades.
Just as soldiers in the field of battle, they are called on to risk their lives for the benefit of strangers --- and they go, day after day, week after week, month after month, into dangerous and wearying conditions, they ceaselessly meet the needs of their fellow man. Lesser people would not do that; they would run for the hills.
And what about our teachers? They did not sign up for this – trying to instruct a class virtually, while simultaneously working with their own children. They do it because it is theirs to do, and because they care about the children and the children’s future. They know that their task is more than just instruction; they know the children have emotional needs, and they work to supply those needs too, via drive-arounds holding signs, etc., etc., demonstrating the depth of their concerns.
Add to that those making masks and passing them around to keep others safe. In many ways we are rising to the occasion the way those who went before us rose. And why? Because that is who Americans are.
This is why we observe the “Thank Yous” in various forms, spontaneously expressed, in merited recognition of the self-sacrifice of these deserving servants. And it goes beyond the medical staffs, to people in all professions. I saw an article recently of an Amazon forklift driver who was upset she wasn’t being provided the equipment necessary to keep her safe from the virus. After her protest, she returned to the forklift because she said, my work is necessary; I’m delivering hand sanitizer to keep others safe. Clearly that is the sentiment of those of us who work in the grocery stores, not knowing if the one you are serving has the virus.
This Memorial Day, as we give thanks for those who gave their all so we can live the free and prosperous lives which we as Americans cherish, let's also renew our faith in one another as American citizens, as worthy as prior generations to be called American patriots.