Memorial Day not about politics and parties

May 31, 2015

Memorial DayCall it corny, call it old-fashioned, call it whatever you will, but I do not use the phrase “Happy Memorial Day.” To me, there’s nothing happy about it. Grateful, yes. Thankful, yes. Reflective, yes. But happy? Never.

I use, “Have a safe weekend,” instead and leave it at that.

And it was in that frame of mind this past Sunday morning that I started with Ian Shapira’s Washington Post article “Americans gave their lives to defeat the Nazis. The Dutch have never forgotten.”

It tells the story of the U.S. cemetery outside Margraten, Netherlands, and how each of the more than 8,000 graves has been adopted by a local family or group. And what’s even more remarkable is that after 70 years since the end of the war, there are more than 100 people on a waiting list to become a caretaker.

A few minutes later, Twitter delivered the American contrast: a picture of President Barack Obama on the left, licking an ice cream cone, and on the right, a widow mourning over a flag-draped coffin with a message castigating Democrats for the Obama picture tweet with the message, “Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!”

Having seen dozens of Internet hoaxes throughout the years, my first reaction was that this had to be another.

Surely the Democratic National Committee would not make light of such a solemn weekend.

But alas, the DNC was not only behind the “ice cream wishes and cavalier dreams” tweet, (apologies to Robin Leach), it followed up the tweet with a trio of tripe:

“T-shirts, buttons and more are 15 percent off with the code MEMORIALDAY15 — this weekend only!”

“Are you barbecuing this weekend? President Johnson loaded his plate at his Texas ranch in 1967.”

“Memorial Day Weekend SALE. Save 15 percent when you enter MEMORIALDAY15 at checkout.”

All three proudly signed: “The Democrats (@TheDemocrats)” and sent from the official account of the Democratic National Committee.

There was a “Like a Boss” T-Shirt complete with Obama pic, a, “I Hate Tea (Parties)” travel tumbler and even a full set of leftover “I Shamrock O’Bama” lapel stickers.

Conspicuously, the only thing pertaining to Memorial Day was the “MEMORIALDAY15” discount code to enter at checkout. No American flag, no photo of Arlington National Cemetery, no link to donate to the Fisher House Foundation or the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund — absolutely nothing other than political trinkets to promote the party.

Meanwhile, 4,600 miles away, the Dutch had a waiting list to care for the graves of men that they never knew.

But as angry as I was with the DNC, something told me they were not alone.

Sure enough, a click over to the Republican National Committee account (@GOP) revealed they too were putting politics over sacrifice. (The RNC might argue that their “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” T-Shirt was patriotic, but it would be a lame argument indeed.)

That either of the parties would sink to such a level of disrespect was something that even I, Mr. Cynical, never dreamed possible.

A couple of Founding Fathers however would not be the least surprised.

John Adams decried political parties as “the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” George Washington warned that competing political factions would only lead to a “more formal and permanent despotism.”

Is there anything more evil, more despotic than pimping out political gear on the graves of our fallen? Is there any doubt that after last weekend’s behavior that it’s only a matter of time before they show us there is?

PUBLISHER’s NOTE:  This column first appeared in the May 31st, 2015 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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