Monday, May 26, 2014

Recognizing Sacrifice or Eating Cheeseburgers?

Today is Memorial Day, and when I woke up I was happy that Jeff and Ari are home with me today.

Jeff and I had a conversation about a pervasive lack of understanding about Memorial Day and Veterans Day (he explained the difference quite succinctly for him) and I'll be honest, the two days have always sort of blended together for me.

It is disconcerting that Memorial Day is known more for cookouts and barbecues, for a day off from work, for it being okay to wear white (according to my mother, anyway ... I never really got that one), for attending parades, and for going to the cemetery to put flowers on headstones because you only think to do it on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

My maternal grandfather was one of the first people on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day (he carried equipment) and my paternal grandfather was a member of the Navy stationed in the South Pacific.  Both my father and step-father were in the Army.  Emily's father is in the U.S. Army and has spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan.  Jeff's father was in Vietnam.

My family is historically a military family, yet I didn't really know the difference between the holidays honoring the those who've served in very different ways.

My husband suggested that I write a post about sacrifice, so I am; I'm writing about why it is so hard for most people to appreciate, or even understand, sacrifice directly.

I mean, if people truly understood the sacrifice inherent in Memorial Day, would they be pounding cheeseburgers in white attire chatting with others about what a treat it is to have an extra day off from work or school?

My conclusion is the sacrifice makes people uncomfortable. It's either that or the conclusion that people don't care about fallen military personnel, so I'm going with the discomfort.

I never considered joining the military because I was "college-bound".  The same is true for my brother and, I assume, for Jeff as well.  The Marines actually wanted  my sister for their band (she plays the oboe) and, almost ten years later, wanted Emily for the same reason (she plays the bassoon).  So, yeah, kind of ironic that the two members of my immediate family that have come closest to joining the military had to do with the fact that they play rather obscure musical instruments.

Think about this question: what is the last sacrifice you made?

I'm having a hard time thinking of mine, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with not eating the last Oreo in the package even though I REALLY wanted it because I know Oreos are Ari's favorite.

That's kind of small in the great scheme of things.

I think the concept of sacrifice makes people uncomfortable. We look at people making sacrifices, military personnel or anyone, and it makes us feel kind of small.

I always loved teaching John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men because I could actually get kids thinking about sacrifice and whether it was **spoiler ahead** right or wrong that George shot Lennie before the angry mob could reach him, whether George's action was done out of love for Lennie or to just get himself freed of an albatross around his neck that he couldn't escape.  George made Lennie comfortable and talked to him about their dream farm before shooting him quietly and humanely; if Curley and his mob had gotten to Lennie first, there would have been torture and ugliness.  It doesn't change the fact that George took a human life, and I suspect that George thought about that sacrifice every day for the rest of his life (if he was real and not a character in a work of fiction, of course).

Why do you think sacrifice makes so many people uncomfortable? (Or am I totally off base here?)

NOTE: I actually wrote about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day back in 2009.  It's a pretty decent piece, so if you want to read it, it's right here.