i am not a big fan of government induced holidays. i would prefer we celebrate mostly on our own when we think it’s appropriate, and that doesn’t mean a barbeque, baseball, game, water frolics on the lake, or going to the beach. It also doesn’t mean large fireworks displays to awe the masses. i like the holidays Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. i also like to wish folks happy birthdays and anniversaries, although admittedly, i am not real good at that, even with my own birthday calendar, Facebook, and Linked In reminders. That is just me. Folks can argue we should have or not have certain holidays from many different angles. Each is entitled to his or her own opinion. i’m not into convincing anyone i’ve got it right. i don’t keep score, and this is not a contest.
But for Memorial Day, I take two moments to honor those who suffered or fell in service to defend our constitution. Before 0800, or for those of you with military service: “Colors,” i climb the old railroad tie steps to the top of my hill and lower my flag to half-mast. Around noon, i repeat my climb and at 1220 in accordance with Navy tradition since i don’t have any saluting cannons for the 21 minute guns salute (begun at noon when available), i two-block the flag (that’s raising it to the top for landlubbers). On each occasion after completing the act of honor and remembrance, i turn and look west over the ships of the Pacific Fleet moored at the Naval Station below, out to the majestic Point Loma, a citadel for the bay, to the horizon of the Pacific from whence my father and i returned in the conflicts of our time when so many others didn’t.
Many, like my father, went with great sacrifice to their own personal and family life because we were in a conflict that threatened our very existence as we knew it. Others, like me, went because it was a requirement. Many of us, like me (significantly younger than my father when he enlisted), went with no sense of putting our lives on the line, even though we did exactly this – in my case, it was a remote possibility but still a possibility). i am sure those who made the ultimate sacrifice covered the spectrum of these reasons for service as well.
Yet i am also sure every single one of us knew we were going “to defend the constitution;” not the country, not the residing president, not congress, but the constitution as represented by the flag, or “ensign” as we Navy folks are wont to say. We knew and know because we gave our word, made an oath, swore to defend the constitution. And we did, in many ways, and today we honor those who made it a short lifetime of service.
I stand silently in respect and wish we had not changed the date from May 30th and turned it into a day off to have fun.
Today is also the birthday of Ralph Waldo Emerson as noted in “The Writer’s Almanac,” along with a quote of the philosopher. i marvel at Emerson’s ideas of Transcendentalism, and think he made a lot of good points. From today’s “Writer’s Almanac:”
From the essay “The Over-Soul” (1841):
“The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty. We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul. Only by the vision of that Wisdom can the horoscope of the ages be read, and by falling back on our better thoughts, by yielding to the spirit of prophecy which is innate in every man, we can know what it saith.”
Have a good day and pause for a moment of respect for those who fell for us.