Have you ever attended or participated in a Ceremony that troubles you?
Today I did. Today is the day in the USA when we go to cemeteries and stand along parade routes to honor those who have served and especially those who have fallen in their service to our country. The little cemetery down the road from where I live is the current home of the bones of my dad, one of his brothers, and one of his brothers-in-law. All three, and many others in that graveyard, served during the Second World War. There are also Vets of most of the previous wars going back to the Civil War, the war of the Battle Cry of Freedom.
In the last ten years of his life, Dad’s brother-in-law was in a wheel chair due to a stroke. He hated that he could not say what he was thinking; he hated that he was bound to a chair. Dad, too, was much reduced in his power; he could no longer get on the wildest meanest horse in the remuda; his knees bothered him when he walked very far; his body ached constantly from the many encounters with things that broke bones and bruised flesh.
One day, day Dad visited my uncle when he (uncle) was in a particularly low mood. “Well, Bill, we have had most of the last fifty years; raised families; held and kissed grand kids; owned ranches of our dreams; played and loved. We all know boys we left behind fifty years ago, who never had these things.” I have no idea whether this had any affect on Bill’s mood. But I think it tells the story of how Vets who came home think about those others who did not.
So why is this relevant to being troubled by a Memorial Day Ceremony at the local grave yard?
It is because of the song I played while I unfurled the Stars and Stripes on my deck this morning before going to the cemetery. That song ends with the words “. . . does that flag still fly over the land of the free and the home of the brave.” And I cannot honestly reply that it does in fact fly over a land of freedom.
In a land where the bully pulpit becomes an instrument in condemning the rights of others to speak their mind, freedom is a vain and empty word. In a land where people are criticized for protesting injustice, freedom is a word written on toilet paper. In a land where people have died to preserve our liberty to protest and speak our minds, yet where a significant portion of the population believes it is appropriate to denigrate the protester as unpatriotic and the teller of truth as “fake news,” freedom is just another word.
And so when I heard the leader of the VFW in our little town espousing how these heroes died for “freedom,” I was troubled. Deeply troubled.