Memorial Day 2017

I thought of the three Portland men as we sang America the Beautiful today:

O Beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!

In the current political moment, it feels important that it was a hippie Reed College alum, a career military man and father of four, and a college student “Social Justice Warrior” who came together to protect the Muslim women of color from a violent racist. Our poisonous political rhetoric has polarized and caricatured these groups, but in this story they united to preserve and protect our shared values. I was starting to despair that we couldn’t do that anymore.

As we celebrate Memorial Day this year, let’s reflect on whether the values American heros died for are being well embodied in our current government and populace. And the more important, and more difficult, question–what we can do to improve that? We can only control ourselves, and attempts to control others so often backfire. And yet our destinies are intertwined. A nation cannot succeed as an enterprise if we do not work together to sustain it. So I am very urgently and earnestly wondering, what can we do to improve our government, people, and politics?

This Memorial Day I am choosing to remember what we were and should be, and I’m choosing not to look away from our urgent needs.


  1. Jason K. says:

    Thank you for honoring these men today.

  2. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang “God Bless the U.S.A” today as part of their Memorial Day Music and the Spoken Word and I admit I got a bit teary at

    “And I won’t forget the men who died
    Who gave that right to me
    And I gladly stand up
    Next to you and defend (Muslims or anyone who needs it) still today”

    And, I also loved that the part where the MoTab sings “Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land.” The juxtaposition of the formal-ness of the choir singing “ain’t no doubt” felt completely American.

    See video here if you also want to get teary:

  3. What a lovely post for this holiday. Thanks, Cynthia.

  4. Karen H. says:

    This was a perfect reminder. Thanks Cynthia.

  5. This is excellent, Cynthia!

  6. Amen.

  7. Naismith says:

    Loved the OP. Thanks for the reminder that we all fight for American values in various ways.

    But I do not particularly care for that song mentioned in a comment because of the sexism of the lyrics, thanking only the men served and died for our country. My mother and I both served in the U.S. Army.

    In World War II, six Army nurses were also killed on the beach in Italy. Those who perished in hospitals that were bombed in every conflagration. I had a women’s studies professor who had been part of the U.S. ferry command during WWII, who only recently had received veteran’s recognition in the 1970s. Women were used as military test pilots and to ferry aircraft from place to place across the US (38 female pilots died in crashes).

    Also, having that song play a prominent role at Trump rallies sullies it, and leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Don’t forget the footage of the murderer at demonstrations being wrapped in the American flag.

    I’ll save my tears for when it matters, not cheap patriotism.

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