As we go into this Memorial Day weekend, there really aren’t many high-minded words left that haven’t been uttered in anger or anguish by this troubling week.
Despite the horror of the week, Memorial Day weekend is a holiday set aside to remember those who died serving in our armed forces.
This year, given the opportunity to say anything to them, I’d apologize. We’ve made a mess of things. And as a result, we’ve lost our confident stride, the strong set of our collective shoulders, and most alarmingly, the thankfulness that should accompany a country as blessed as ours.
Rather than united and thankful, we are divided and disgruntled. Some take offense at any perceived slight, always on the alert for something - anything- to be angry about.
Others see unlimited entitlement, with nothing required in return.
Few seem to fully appreciate our our good fortune.
Even fewer of us realize our good fortune is a two-edged sword.
We believe that “from whom much is given, much will be required” while we simultaneously give thanks for those who gave “their last full measure of devotion” to gift us with our easy lives.
Pardon me for quoting two disfavored sources (the Bible and Abraham Lincoln, respectively).
But both thoughts are as true today as when they were first spoken.
If quoting the Bible offends, the same words were quoted in 1961 by John F. Kennedy when he referred to qualities of great leadership.
In today’s sound-bite driven society, quotations are routinely pulled out of context.
Not my intent. In fact, my goal’s just the opposite. I want Mr. Lincolns words completely in context.
It is important to remember things weren’t going well for Mr. Lincoln or the country in 1863.
Lincoln was speaking in the middle of turmoil, not after things resolved.
The United States was unquestionably divided. Few countries had ever survived such division.
Despite that, Lincoln dedicated a battlefield turned burial ground with a closing thought that echoed his hope for the future -and recognition of the unfinished work remaining:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- 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.”
One final thought on Lincoln.
He didn’t live to see his words come true. He spoke them with no idea he would become another of the war’s casualties. But he believed the goal to be worth the toll.
These random thoughts are offered unapologetically and absent any veiled intent. If you’re like me, you’re tired of entendre.
Our times are troubled, but history makes the case that trouble comes to all.
What matters is how we respond.
Discouraged? Don’t despair.
Despite reporting more tragedy than I care to remember but won’t ever be able to forget, I haven’t lost faith - in any sense of the word.
Neither should you.
But never lose sight of the fact that before those we remember this weekend sacrificed, they were no different from us.
They believed in the American idea. They died protecting it. This weekend, we have an obligation to remember that sacrifice.
Afterwards, we have an obligation to work toward the preservation of the country they gave “their last full measure of devotion” to preserve - for everyone who comes after us.
If we don’t, we’ll learn what happens if we receive much, but forget the obligation that accompanies blessings.
— Jim Shepherd