By Don Keith
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Some thoughts on Memorial Day
By Don Keith
It's Memorial Day weekend again, a time for family, barbecue, mattress sales, and, maybe, paying homage to those who have given their lives for their countries. As I was reflecting on all that, it occurred to me that some of those we honor may have died for what we might consider the wrong causes.
A friend of mine, Michael Stamps, got me thinking when he recently sent out an interesting missive on the subject. Michael writes: "We must honor our fallen, never forgetting their sacrifice. This is what we must do; this is what is required of the living. We oftentimes remember when they died and at times we are reminded of how. But more often than not, we minimize the reason why they died, simply accepting the words, "to keep us free," without thinking about what words such as these really mean. The concept of freedom means different things to different persons."
How true that is! I recently wrote the biography (“Mattie C.’s Boy”) of a truly remarkable man who overcame unimaginable cruelty—from family as well as strangers, from black as well as white, though he is African-American—to become a much honored and very successful communicator and businessman. Shelley Stewart hates the term “civil rights.” He straightened me out quickly when I idly used it as most of us do.
“Legally, we all have civil rights and have for a long time. Everybody does. What we have to fight for is human rights. If we recognize and accept everyone as human, it’s hard for even the biggest bigot to argue that all humans don’t deserve the same rights.”
I know wars are fought and men die for wrong or misunderstood causes. That is especially true, I’m afraid, in a time of uninformed people who base their understanding on Twitter posts and Internet postings. Smart marketers disguised as statesmen can convince followers to jump off a cliff in the name of what may or may not be a just fight. It’s sometimes discouraging to me that we live in a time when information is more easily available than ever before in history yet so many people accept the first point of view they see or are so easily mislead by slick promises and manufactured “truth.”
Are we just overwhelmed by the volume of information and opinion? Or are we too lazy to seek out truths so we make the right decisions on everything from which potato chip to buy for our Memorial Day cookout to which presidential candidate to vote for to which country we bomb into oblivion?
I just hope as we honor those who have died on our behalf--for our freedom to learn and choose--that we also take a vow to honor them in a new and far more practical way. Become better educated, truly listen to all sides of an issue before making up our minds, and to make decisions that may cost people their lives based on more than a snap decision or the well-crafted words of a seductive tyrant. Or even something a friend posted on Facebook.