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Colbert I. King, the great Saturday Op-Ed columnist for the Washington Post, called on Americans everywhere to pass up shopping and partying in favor of honoring the fallen.
The money passage from his May 24 column: “…it is unseemly to race out of the house for door-buster sales, auto showrooms and the smoking grill when the day is set aside to honor those who gave their all.”
It’s a provocative thought, but that’s about all it is. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
*First of all, there’s no crisis here, especially not in Washington. I was in town all weekend, and all I heard was the rumble of Harleys. That is, Rolling Thunder. And if there’s any better way to be reminded of the honor of our fallen soldiers it’s via Rolling Thunder. So there’s that. Plus, there were plenty of ceremonies out there to attend and watch on the TV and so on.
*Second, the act of shopping has been redefined as a patriotic deed, especially in these times. So though it may bring us no closer spiritually to the fallen, it beats, say, meditating or napping on the serve-your-country meter.
*Third, you gotta eat at some point on Memorial Day. Unless King is proposing that we fast as a means of honoring the fallen, we all should be eating three square meals on Memorial Day, plus half a cookie before bed. Given these imperatives, how to handle dinner? Should we just eschew the outdoor grill and instead use the indoor one as a way of showing respect? Not sure how to handle this.
*Fourth, how would the fallen have us behave? That’s a tough question to answer, of course, and it’s one that invariably gets asked at times of funerals and memorials: How would so-and-so have wanted us to proceed? I don’t know anyone who died in combat. My guess is that the fallen were probably like most Americans, and enjoyed grilling out on warm holidays. But King’s right about the fact that they won’t get to do that anymore. So instead of making a big production of grilling and drinking or making a big production of mourning the fallen, I tend to spend my Memorial Days muddling along, doing stuff that I didn’t do over the weekend—like cleaning and cooking.
My only request to King is this: If he wants us to refrain from the activities that have become traditional on Memorial Day, he really has to provide some guidance on just what we should do. Should we attend the official ceremonies honoring the fallen? Do some reading on the heroism of our veterans? And what should we eat and how should we prepare it? How to handle drinks? Just soft ones?