Seeds: Memorial Day, or the reason many of us are out of school or work on Monday, was first called “Decoration Day.” It was first celebrated after the Civil War as a day to honor the men and women who died serving the United States Military. It became an official federal holiday in 1971. It is typical for those who have lost loved ones to lay flowers and flags at their graves.
Core: Most all believe that the service of these men and women should be greatly appreciated. Memorial Day remains another holiday in the United States wherein citizens come together as a whole to be thankful and relish in the collective spirit of Americans, given that they are celebrating soldiers who died so their citizens could live in freedom. But others note it is important to recognize that the thought processes behind Memorial Day quietly mark a theme throughout US history that is extremely important in understanding the functionality of the United States: national pride. In this instance, most attest that this spirit is incredibly valuable; most everyone agrees that members of the armed forces deserve to be recognized for their service and displays of incredible patriotism. But in other cases, some argue that exaggerated patriotism (sometimes called American exceptionalism) in other areas such as politics, can lead to policies that are borderline nativist, racist, or xenophobic policies.
Skin: For many Americans, this national pride is inherent in national identity and should therefore in itself be valued. For many, America has made it to be this incredible power through the hard work and resolve of its citizens. Because of this, some argue that Americans need to protect themselves and their industry by prioritizing American jobs and discouraging illegal immigration. This argument is more often made by Republicans. Although, some others attest that asserting too strictly that Americans are the greatest and ultimately more deserving of the resources that America has to offer leads to policies they may deem as racist or xenophobic such as a ban on Muslims, or disallowing Syrian refugees. This perspective can sometimes be viewed as more socialistic, supporting the ideology of democratic presidential candidates.
Leaves: For most, the importance of Memorial Day on Monday is to honor the dead who have bravely served in the armed forces. But one might want to also remember to question either side of the political aisle in order to enact policies that would honor the legacy of these men and women who have died serving our country.
Food For Thought: Do you have anyone in your family who has served in the armed forces? What does Memorial Day mean to you? Do you think that there is such a thing as too much patriotism?