Yesterday was Memorial Day. For those of you who do not know, Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, is a United States federal holiday that commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. It is a day that we, traditionally, remember all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us could live in peace and enjoy the freedoms our forefathers secured for us and our soldiers have continued to defend.
My family and I went to visit my parents and other members of my family up in the northern part of Texas over the weekend. Needless to say, I was more than surprised to discover that my sister’s kids had to attend school yesterday on Memorial Day. There were no parades planned or concerts performed for our soldiers. There weren’t any parties or special speakers lined up to educate the children on the meaning of Memorial Day. No, the holiday wasn’t even celebrated.
As I ended up discovering, there are schools all over Texas and the country who did not let out for Memorial Day this year. There are thousands of school children who were not expected to spend a single moment remembering the brave men and women who have given their lives for this country over the years to secure our freedoms.
These same children, however, were let out of school for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Many school children, I discovered, where also let out of school for Columbus Day. Some children in San Antonio (and other places I suspect) were actually let out of school this year for César Chávez Day.
Now, while MLK Day is a federal holiday and the man’s contributions to our society cannot be denied and should not be ignored, I fail to see how a holiday that celebrates one person’s contributions to society is greater than a holiday that celebrates not only the lives but the ultimate sacrifice of death of thousands of our citizens so that we might enjoy our way of life.
Columbus Day too is a federal holiday for reasons I am sure I do not understand. Columbus, it is argued, “discovered” the new world and so should be celebrated with a holiday that is somehow more important than the lives of thousands of ordinary American citizens who fought and died to defend freedom, peace, and prosperity for all Americans. Nevermind the fact that many historians question whether Columbus was the first European to visit the New World and we all know that he couldn’t have “discovered” a continent that was teeming with human life.
I’m not even sure what to say about César Chávez Day. It’s not even a federal holiday. It’s a state holiday in eight states. While I won’t argue here the merits of a holiday to celebrate the man, I will most certainly argue the merits of celebrating this holiday instead of Memorial Day which is what I have heard schools are doing here in Texas. I understand that Texas has a large Hispanic population who believes César Chávez Day to be an important holiday. But how can we, as a society, allow anyone in this great nation to substitute such a celebration for the celebration of our sacrificed citizens? It’s a gross travesty of injustice.
When did all of this happen? Why does everyone think it’s ok?
I suppose some schools find it convenient to have classes on Memorial Day so they can finish up and get out for the summer a little early. Maybe others do it because they don’t really think of Memorial Day as much of a holiday. There doesn’t seem to be anyone out there protesting the fact that the meaning of the holiday is disappearing or being completely ignored. Of course, take away MLK Day or César Chávez Day and wait for the protesters to show up. I’m not really sure who’s still protecting Columbus Day except maybe a half dozen bank employees.
Still, you’d think someone would notice and care that our nation is slowly forgetting that it took the blood and sacrifice of thousands upon thousands of our citizens to win and defend freedom. Those people deserve our respect and our remembrances.