I planted my front porch flowers yesterday. Nothing remarkable in that. I plant them every May in this big oblong box that runs the length of my front porch. Pink impatiens – that’s what I plant – that’s what I always plant. I guess because they do so well there, I’ve just stuck with what works. By September they have filled the box to overflowing with blooms, petals of brilliant pink, which is my favorite color. They bring me joy just to look at them everyday.
This planting of the pink impatiens is a tradition of mine. I like traditions. Traditions connect my past with my present. Traditions pave the way for my present to connect to my future. Tradition is the pathway connecting past, present and future. Tradition shows me the way – where I have been – where I am – where I am going.
How fitting I should carry out my flower planting tradition on this weekend dedicated to tradition. Memorial Day weekend. Even the name tells us what it is all about. Memory – remembering. This weekend is set aside for a very specific remembering – a remembering which is supposed to be cause for celebration.
We are supposed to be celebrating the freedoms we have as American citizens – freedoms which we often take for granted maybe because we have never experienced life without freedom. Until now.
What irony, that on this weekend, this weekend specifically set aside to remember and to honor all those who gave their lives over the years so that our personal freedoms might remain intact, we find ourselves struggling to gain back those very freedoms we never realized we had agreed to relinquish.
How did this happen? Our freedoms of assembly and free speech seem especially in jeopardy right now. Sure, Costcos and Walmarts are packed with people, but churches have been closed and can only open with great restrictions on numbers and many protocols in place. Are they taking temperatures at Walmart?
Prisons have been releasing their inmates, convicted criminals, we are told in order to protect them from catching COVID-19. (who protects us from the newly released criminals?) While simultaneously, citizens in many states are being arrested and jailed for attempting to open their businesses or for being outdoors on a beach or in a boat. Don’t they need to be protected from COVID-19 too, just like the newly released inmates? (I guess that’s why the criminals are being released, we need to make room for all the upcoming arrests of citizens attempting to earn a living rather than collect unemployment and to live the lives they were living just two short months ago)
Looking at what has happened in our country over the last few months, I am forced to wonder, did the men and women who have given their lives down through the years, for the cause of freedom, our freedom, did they die in vain? Is freedom going to be lost on our watch?
Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, stated it most clearly. “that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (November 19, 1863)
This weekend, as we remember and reflect, we need to determine that our dead shall not have died in vain but instead we must decide to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion.” We can do no less. It is how we can honor the sacrifices of those who have gone before us.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This is not the time to remain silent. Although platforms such as YouTube are taking down any dissenting voices (should be a red flag that free speech is being violated) cries for freedom should not be silenced.
The Declaration of Independence guarantees us certain unalienable rights given to us by our Creator, not our government, and “that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It also goes on to say that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” Nothing could be clearer.
Did we consent? and to what? we gave up our freedoms so willingly, so trustingly, trusting they were not taken from us, we gave them up briefly as a sacrifice for our fellowman, trusting that because we had freely given them up they were ours to freely take back when we should so choose.
But betrayal never enters by the front door. While we were all watching what the right hand was doing the left hand was at work in another way. I grieve today, on this day that should be a celebration of our freedom, full of traditions that are not being observed because of, because of what, because of fear?
In any conflict there is collateral damage. It is no different in this COVID-19 conflict. There is massive collateral damage. The cost has not yet been fully counted because the price is still being paid on a daily basis. It is being paid by the thirty-three million plus unemployed, hungry, homeless, by those not receiving medical screenings and treatments, medical care for cancer and other illnesses, children not receiving immunizations, those who are isolated, separated from loved ones they might not see again, there is a cost we are refusing to count until it is too late . . .
Stopping the living from living has no power to stop the dying from dying. When it is my time to die I don’t want to realize that I was not free to live my life when I was alive, that I was not truly living. Kind of like an early death.
Patrick Henry understood that very well. In his speech at the 1775 Virginia Convention he said “Give me liberty or give me death!” What followed were the Revolutionary War and the birth of our country, the United States of America.
It is fitting this Memorial Day that I remember the sacrifices of my grandfather and all the others throughout history who have defended our freedoms. This Memorial Day it is my prayer that their sacrifices have not been in vain, that our Constitution still stands, that good men will not remain silent while our freedoms are taken away and that freedom will ring from church bell to church bell, from baseball field to baseball field, from county fair to county fair, from concert to concert, from Broadway to Boston Pops –
let freedom ring!
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
let freedom ring!
sincerely, Grace Day