An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

Short of the brief fear-fueled rallying immedi-ately following the 9-11 tragedy, it is hard to find much that unites those within the United States of America. Deep polarization — egged on by strident voices on the right and left — marks our nation even at times of celebration such as Memorial Day.

Partisan political perspectives often trump our larger sense of patriotism and gratitude for bravery and sacrifice. It is amazing that even a time to honor our war dead gets politicized so easily.

For example, I marvel at the “outrage” expressed by many over the President not being at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day. His veep Joe Biden will participate in the ceremony there.

As the father of two daughters as well, I simply thought: Oh, his girls are out of school and the family is going back to Chicago for a visit. I kind of like the priority in that decision.

Those who gave their lives in service are buried all across this great nation and beyond. Having the President participate in a Memorial Day service at a national cemetery outside Chicago this year hardly sounds like treason to me.

But then it depends on what you start out looking for in a situation. I don’t recall hearing the same criticism when President Reagan attended the Arlington ceremonies with the same frequency as he did church. But…, you know.

Of course, from both sides of the political spectrum we hear pronouncements claiming that only those who agree with me truly love this nation. Civil debates and constructive conversations are rarely heard in the media or in the halls of Congress.

Demonizing one’s political opponent and claiming purity of thought and intention for oneself seems to work better to retain or regain power. All of that seems odd on this holiday weekend that goes back to the simple act of placing wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers.

While not all historians agree on the exact origin, there is evidence of women’s groups in the South decorating graves before the Civil War ended. In an act of healing and unity, the practice spread to the graves of all soldiers lost in war regardless of which side they were on.

Healing and unity among Americans — imagine that?

[Photo of Chickamauga National Military Park in Northwest Georgia where I thought every kid grew up climbing on cannons and monuments.]

Share This