Melanie had also been made secretary for both the Association for the Beautification of the Graves of Our Glorious Dead and the Sewing Circle for the Widows and Orphans of the Confederacy. This new honor came to her after an exciting joint meeting of those societies which threatened to end in violence and the severance of lifelong ties of friendship. The question had arisen at the meeting as to whether or not weeds should be removed from the graves of the Union soldiers near those of Confederate soldiers. The appearance of the scraggly Yankee mounds defeated all the efforts of the ladies to beautify those of their own dead. Immediately the fires which smoldered beneath tight basques flamed wildly and the two organizations split up and glared hostilely. The Sewing Circle was in favor of the removal of the weeds, the Ladies of the Beautification were violently opposed .
GONE WITH THE WIND
The first time I read GWTW, I was mesmerized by the name “Association for the Beautification of the Graves of Our Glorious Dead.” It was so evocative, so rich in subtext, so noble, and so…so…so Southern. I was enraptured of the idea that one could have Glorious Dead. And that ladies could fight to a less glorious death over weeding was positively beyond my scope of comprehension.
Fast forward a few decades and suddenly, the dead aren’t so glorious and in fact, they seem to have even lost their gloriousness for Memorial Day. Yes, there are parades and flags are set out in local cemeteries, but for every person who stops to observe the solemnity of the day, there are a dozen who are out scouting the local sales for Memorial Day Blowout Bargains! Bunting now decorates adverts and store signs, and speeches are presented as sound bites on the evening news.
Memorial Day is a fine idea. It was meant to be a day of reflection and appreciation; a day when we pause to recall those who put their lives on the line out of a sense of duty and honor. Even if we disagree with why we were in Iraq or in Afghanistan now, it doesn’t matter; they wore the uniform in service to this country. Scoring a big screen TV at a great price has no place in that same pantheon. Like every other holiday in this country, it has been hijacked into a reason to go shopping. How is it that Madison Avenue thinks the only thing America does is shop? It’s a chicken and the egg kind of thing. Did the ad execs notice we shop or do we shop because the ads compel into the stores?
Oddly, today was also the second day of the holiday Shavuot and a day on which we recite Yizkor, the memorial service. While Shavuot often falls at the end of May, it’s rare when second day happens to fall on Memorial Day. That said, it’s quite fitting. It’s a short service within the service, and one says the prayers appropriate to one’s loss as well as for communal groups. It’s not an easy service to get through, but it specifically addresses loss and the impact of that loss. And it is quite to the point: we remember our dead.
America should be saying Yizkor for our lost soldiers, for our Glorious Dead. If there’s going to be a Memorial Day, maybe that’s what it needs to be: a day when there aren’t sales, when people perform some kind of national service to remind us that we are one single country and one American community.
And if we do that, maybe our candidates will remember that they are also part of the one country and one American community.
Just a thought.
Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
Tuesday, May 29th, marks the 559th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks.
And the 59th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s conquest of Everest.
Traditionally, angel food cake with chocolate icing is served.