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START OF MAY 31 COLUMN

Memorial Day’s Meanings

 

The Onion, a Midwest-based humor magazine with a funny website, has published a very funny book, Our Stupid Century. I’ll spare you the details, because humor doesn’t always travel well, but trust me, it is very funny. The conceit is that the Onion, which was actually formed in the 1980s, has been publishing since the 1700s in the United States. The book simultaneously makes fun of great events and newspaper writing and design styles of the 18th(briefly), 19th and 20th centuries.

One of the headlines on the VJ day issue (that's Victory over Japan, August 1945) was "Soldiers Return Home, Promise To Raise Whiniest Generation Ever." And they did. That's us, the boomers (I'm a late boomer, 1952, and my dad was too young for WWII, but you get the idea). We're not only the whiniest generation, ever, we're also the most ungrateful, although as they age I am sure our children will give us a run for our money, in both senses of the word.

My generation was, indeed, scarred and scared by the Vietnam experience, one way or the other: either we served and suffered the usual indignities of military service, or we avoided service (legally in my case) and protested the war.

But despite that, we owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who fought in this country's wars, who earned with their blood the freedom we now so blithely enjoy. Of course, as our educational system has been dumbed down, fewer of our young people even know about this debt.

Holidays engender a fair amount of debate in this country. Are they just three-day weekends and excuses for sales events? Or should we all spend at least a little time considering the meaning of the holiday?

I try to put in some time and effort thinking about holidays. I mean, I don't have to work. I can and do use the time to relax and unwind. But I try to spend some time personally, by myself, and with my daughters, talking and thinking about the meaning of the occasion, whether it is Memorial Day, or the 4th of July, or Veterans' Day, or Thanksgiving, or Christmas.

You don't have to be maudlin and you don't have to overdo it. But whatever your age or the age of your children, you can spend a few minutes pondering--in the case of this holiday--the sacrifices that made your way of life possible.

You know, chances are they didn't want to go either.

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