Memorial Day, 2017
I was at Legion Post 1992, Gautier-Vancleave, waiting for our annual Memorial Day observance to begin.
I picked up a program and read the following words.
Dear Lord, Lest I continue My complacent way,
Help me remember that somewhere, Somehow out there
A man died for me today. As long as there be war,
I then must ask and answer… Am I worth dying for?
The verse was attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. And it really got me. I got a tight throat and I had to blink and look around the room to avoid actually crying.
It stayed with me all day. Now I sit and digest it. Mostly, I wonder how many can truly answer that question, understanding its full meaning, in the affirmative.
I am an unapologetic political person. It is what I write most about. Today is no exception. However, I want to talk more about politics as civic engagement today. I have been harping on this quite a bit lately. More than I see failure or success of this party or that, I see a widespread failure of the average American to even engage. I’ll bet many reading this groaned as soon as I mentioned politics. Many immediately clicked off and are not reading this sentence.
And therein resides an indictment.
We hear, especially today, how those who died in battle died for “us”. Who makes up that “us”. We hear how they died for a cause. For whom does the “cause” exist? Who watches over and advances this cause while they venture out and die? Are you in that number?
I would say there is a about a 70% chance that many who read Roosevelt’s question cannot say “yes” with confidence. There is a reason for that number, I’ll get to it momentarily.
But first, let me expand the question. Because it is a lead pipe cinch that unless a fallen warrior knows you personally, he didn’t die for you. He died for the people he knew and loved, he died for his comrades fighting next to him. In some cases he died pursuing three hots and a cot.
But allowing for the ideal in every case, can you say he generally died for you?
Do you think that global warming is settled science and any discussion, or doing other than what we are told to do by our betters is grounds for insult and scorn?
Do you think we must defeat the violent, religious nut bags tearing at the fabric of all societies because we are a Christian (or whatever flavor you choose) nation?
Do you think anyone who disagrees with your favorite politician, even vehemently, is a “hater” by virtue of that disagreement?
Do you think any of the problems we have in this country are a function of race?
Do you think any of the solutions to problems we have in this country are a function of race?
Have you prevented, or by your silence, allowed the prevention of a speaker’s presence ANYWHERE, because of the views they might express?
Do you think there should be an approved code of “free speech”?
Do you avoid your civic duties like voting, reading, participating in local government functions?
Do you see snarky or trendy phrases, over reason, as good discourse?
Is shouting someone down an accomplishment?
Did you ever intentionally skate out of jury duty?
Do you believe that anyone, other than those you have contracted with, owes you anything? Even respect?
Do you refer to the representatives you vote into office as “our leaders”?
Do you think the president’s job is to “run the country”?
Is a person who supports a cause you detest, by virtue of that support, a bad singer, actor, writer, plumber or person? Are they then wrong on all other things?
An example of that last question is in this essay. There is an ocean between my worldview and that of Eleanor Roosevelt. That does not invalidate the message of the verse. It is a question worth asking ourselves.
No one is perfect. But if you can look at the questions above and say NO to all but one or two, then you can say you fit into the concept of the “us” or the “cause” a soldier has died for. Sadly, many cannot.
I’m going to call an audible here. I was going to go all radical-voter-lecture on you to address the 70% thing. But I don’t want to totally cock up your holiday. I’ll mess up your Tuesday instead.
I hope you all had a good three-day weekend and that you participated in some way in honoring our fallen troops.