Rebirth of Reason


Memorial Day is over...now, back to work!
by Craig Ceely

I never met a fellow Marine who recognized the name John Locke. Not once in twelve years. But we all regarded life, liberty, and property as values--and everyone I knew recognized "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as the words of Jefferson. No one I knew was willing to offer himself up as a sacrificial animal--we all wanted to live. But all were willing to fight--and, if necessary, to die--for such values.

But values are meaningful only for, and to, the living--and it is only the living who can mark any occasion, properly or improperly. Conservatives tell us that Memorial Day should be more than another three-day weekend: we should be somber, we're told, in remembrance of American war dead. President Bush, for example, speaks of "honoring the great sacrifices." He means well, but he misses the point. Those who died on America's fields of battle died defending values--they gave their lives, but they sacrificed nothing. Like his fellow conservatives, the president insists that we "must pray for peace."

They just don't get it.

I raised an American flag today. But I also took my family to the El Paso Zoo, where we enjoyed the new ocelot exhibit, the Mexican wolves, and the two leopard cubs. My son rode a rollercoaster for the first time. The evening held promise of grilled shrimp and beer. Have I dishonored America's war dead by turning Memorial Day into, as the conservative harangue goes, "just another three-day weekend?"

Horsefeathers. The Sourpuss Right is right: Memorial Day is not just another three-day weekend. It's a great reason to have one, among the best. It's an assertion that American fighting men have not died in vain.

For life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness--these values cherished by Americans--these values which must be defended, sometimes unto death--these values have meaning only for the living, and they have meaning only on this earth. This earth is where those values are enjoyed. This earth is where those valiant warriors fell, defending them. And this earth--well, this earth, and only this earth, is where their remembrance is made.

And if--as seems sadly inevitable--more brave young Americans die in Afghanistan--we'll remember them, too.

But: please, a remembrance worthy of them, worthy of their lives on this earth. No long faces. Note that life goes on, that the sun still warms, that Beethoven still inspires, that gasoline, for example, is almost twenty cents a gallon less than it was the last time we observed Memorial Day, that enemies have been vanquished and leopard cubs have been born and rollercoaster rides experienced. That life has been lived. That burgers and shrimp have been grilled and beer consumed and gratitude has been offered but no apologies, ever, for any of it.

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