Barack Obama recently referred to the time since his election as President of the United States as, “the toughest year and a half since any year and a half since the 1930s.”
Ponder that curious, if not revealing observation for a moment.
The Memorial Day Weekend before us is an annual reminder of sacrifice and service—the kind that makes all the rest possible—from the family gatherings to the very freedoms we cherish. Originally called Decoration Day, it is a time to remember those who have died in our nation’s service—many of them, actually, since the 1930s.
My father, Dr. Gerald Stokes, now retired and living in Florida, served our nation during the Korean War. He recently wrote some thoughts about remembrance for his local newspaper:
“America must continue to remember if it is to continue to be blessed. Memorial Day must be more then picnics, time off from work, and fireworks. Schools must spend time refreshing the memories of all students of our heritage including those who are currently serving on two foreign fronts, and the Media must put ‘Remembrance’ on the top of the list of articles and stories they print and present. We must remember! We owe it to all who have given their all for the freedoms we enjoy.
At The Korean Memorial in Washington D.C., a Memorial the dedication of which I was please to be present in 1995, being a veteran of that war, has these words engraved above the 53,000 American and 650,000 Koreans and others who died in that horrendous conflict, ‘Freedom is not Free.’ Poignant words, and so true.”
To what my Dad has said I would only add that we not only have a problem with remembering in America these days, but also the tendency toward selective remembrance.
We are constantly reminded these days about remembering the 1930s—that’s the decade that inspires a new generation of ideological technocrats. It was a time of crisis and the danger was met and mastered by reputedly heroic people who offered a New Deal and saved everything. Anything that doesn’t fit neatly into that narrative becomes a nuisance and is ridiculed as mere nonsense.