By Omar (Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center student)
“Bought homage is but a vizard” – General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, initially proclaimed Memorial Day — first labeled Decoration Day — to be the United States’ national day of recognition for the over 600,000 soldiers who died in battle during the American Civil War (1861-1865). The year 1868 was the first instance of national consideration of the holiday. From then on, people from both the Union as well as the Confederacy would take May 30th as a day to honor the fallen soldiers by decorating tombstones, marching, and gathering to pay homage to the troops who died in the American war with the most soldier fatalities. In 1971, after Decoration Day became better known as Memorial Day so that soldiers from all American wars could be honored, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which recognized Memorial Day as an official national holiday of the United States. Memorial Day’s day of celebration was switched from May 30th to the last Monday of May for any said year. Federal employees were then be capable of taking a three-day weekend off of work. To this day, Memorial Day continues to be a holiday the citizens of the United States of America embrace. All across the country, the holiday is celebrated through a variety of methods. However, the original meaning and purpose of the holiday are becoming lost in a blur. And inside of this blur, lies the undeniable race toward indulgence.
The American people have transformed Memorial Day into excuse for consumerism. The weekend held at the end of May that allowed federal employees to take a three-day break off work has now been expanded to many other non-essential businesses and fields of work. Memorial Day is now more often referred to as Memorial Day Weekend. Although a seemingly excessive add-on to the name of the holiday, it stands as a foundation for realizing that, for many Americans, it is not Memorial Day that they are celebrating, but instead the extended weekend that comes with the holiday. There are indeed veterans, federal workers, and even citizens who still take the day to honor the fallen soldiers of the country through engaging in ceremonies and the such; however, these traditions are not what are promoted to the American public. As Memorial Day Weekend approaches, what the American people see are not preparations for the upcoming marches or gatherings where people shall stand in solidarity with the American troops who were victims of warfare. What they instead see on their TV screens and social media are the approaching sales and getaway trips that consumerism and its adherents are so eager for people to buy into.
Yes, Memorial Day is most definitely a time to kick back, relax, and celebrate the freedoms the people of the United States have access to because of those who died battling for their country. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having fun on Memorial Day with friends and family. Nevertheless, there is a point when the people detach themselves from this purposeful commemoration and end up transforming Memorial Day into yet another way to justify filling their minds with the dopamine of over-spending and diving into ignorance of what the original values of the day were. On top of this, partying; spending; and fireworks are simply not the principles that compose Memorial Day. These aspects listed are what make up Veterans Day, the time for the people to honor all veterans, whether dead or alive, and hone in on the pride they have for the United States. This mix-up in of itself leads the veterans as well as any other people who have lost friends and family in war to end up having to navigate their supposed day of national remembrance and solace with the pervasive distractions of loud noise and insensible individuals. While one is at a cemetery placing flowers for a lost solider, ten are at a mall buying a new TV for their living room, and twenty are scrambling their neighborhoods lighting explosives into the sky. As those who are truly devoted to respecting the fallen American soldiers try to keep traditions over a century old alive, individualism and consumerism inject themselves into the veins of one new victim after another. Satisfaction thrives, and culture crumbles.