Memorial Day Weekend

W.J. Astore

The best way to honor sacrifice is to seek an end to war and militarism

I was asked for a few words about Memorial Day. Here’s what I came up with:

On Memorial Day, we honor those who died in the service of our country. Let us do everything we can as a people and a nation to stop war and all its brutality.  A peaceful future without war and all its awfulness is the best way to honor our troops, even as we cherish the memory of the heroes who gave their all.

Too often, Memorial Day is reduced to sales events, barbecues, and the like. It is, of course, a solemn occasion to remember the sacrifice of American service members. To honor the dead. To cherish their memory.

Yet one can also focus too narrowly on the veneration of the dead, using euphemisms like “the fallen” and speaking of how troops willingly “gave” their lives for their country. The best antidote to this is a short video by Andy Rooney for “60 Minutes” (when that show still had some principles and bite). Rooney, who’d served in World War II, knew of what he spoke. His goal was to end war, to save the living, to make a better world.

If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch it and to reflect on his sad and wise words.

Andy Rooney on Memorial Day

W.J. Astore

The most powerful video I’ve watched about Memorial Day is this short essay by Andy Rooney at “60 Minutes.”  Each time I watch it, I get choked up a bit.

Andy makes many excellent points in this video.  He says those who die in wars don’t “give” their lives for their country; rather, their lives are taken from them.  He reminds us that war is the least noble of humanity’s actions, even with the displays of courage and bravery that take place during it.  Finally, he wishes for a different Memorial Day, not one in which we remember the dead, but one where we celebrate the end of war and the safety and security of our children.

Andy Rooney knew war, and close friends of his died in World War II.  For me, this video both captures the spirit of Memorial Day while pointing the way forward to a better day in America.