Sunday, May 29, 2011 | 1:55 a.m.
Have a satisfying Memorial Day.
I have never been comfortable with the traditional holiday greeting — Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy New Year, Happy Easter, etc. — when it comes to Memorial Day. It seems it should only be a cause for happiness when we reflect on the reasons for the holiday and the secured blessings of liberty and freedom — which should make us the happiest people on the planet.
But, the holiday itself? We should wish each other a satisfying Memorial Day, a fulfilling Memorial Day or a meaningful Memorial Day because that is the real message of this holiday. For it is the great sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made for their country — our country — that should cause each of us to reflect on how much we owe those who have fought for us, without concern for their own safety, just because it was the right thing to do.
For sure, in 2011 it is a most pleasurable opportunity for those of us who can celebrate this holiday with our families. Young or old, most of whom haven’t a clue why Mom or Dad doesn’t have to work or why school is out for the day. For them, it is important that we teach why we in the United States have it so good.
It is especially appropriate given the events of the past couple of months that should cause us to focus on how lucky we are to live in this country.
For example, it is painful to watch television anymore because everywhere we look we see the devastation brought on by flooding rivers, tornadoes and other natural disasters that test everyone affected. And yet, almost to a person, we see hope in the eyes of those who have little reason to hope and we hear stories of loving kindness from one stranger toward another. The only thing they have in common is their bond as Americans.
That is what those who gave their lives in past wars fought for, an idea of a country that was bound together by the highest ideals of humanity. That is the kind of sacrifice that has meaning.
When I think of people dying in wars, I also think about more than 60 years of wars that the people of Israel have had to endure just to live in peace with their neighbors. They, too, have a country based on our same ideals — freedom, liberty and democracy — so to the extent we help and believe in the Israelis, we also believe in ourselves. We share a common bond and existence.
That is why it is a bit disheartening to hear the political attacks on both President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — often from different sides of the political aisle — over the issue of peace talks and settlements and every other issue that seems to have kept Arabs and Israelis from finally making the peace that will give them reason for hope.
I have been asked a lot about what I thought of the president’s reference to the pre-1967 borders (that is the part that was reported but wasn’t all he said), a basis for peace with the Palestinians. His comments ignited a rhetorical firestorm when all he did was state what everyone who pays attention to that part of the world has known for many years. Even the prime minister echoed our president’s position.
In the context of the U.S. Memorial Day, I could not dishonor those who have died defending Israel over the decades by attacking the U.S. president who, as late as this weekend, so unequivocally expressed the United States’ position of absolute solidarity with the Jewish state.
What we should learn from this latest episode is that every country has its own Memorial Day in which it honors those whose deaths have given the lives of its citizens proper meaning. The United States honors Israel’s dead by supporting her cause for peace and security. We should never forget to do the same for our own.
And, finally, I think we all need to reflect on what Memorial Day should mean and how we are ready to act less than honorably in the Silver State.
The men and women who went to war for this country did not do so for the money. They did not do so for some political slogan. And they did not do so for some ideological bent.
They went to war and lost their lives fighting for an ideal.
They fought and died so the generations of Americans who would come after could live — live in peace, live in happiness and live in the kind of comfort that a good education and a proper work ethic could afford them.
But, on this Memorial Day, we have a bunch of men and women in Carson City, led by the governor, who would cut deeply into that ideal of a next generation that is better educated, happier and more at peace. And they would do this because of money, ideology and political calculation. It makes a mockery of everything we should hold dear.
We not only owe it to our children to educate them properly, we owe it to those who have died for our right and responsibility to do that very thing.
Everything you hear out of Carson City about why it won’t happen are just excuses. Lame excuses. There are millions of dead American soldiers who didn’t make excuses. They made sacrifices.
If only we could learn from them, we would have a meaningful Memorial Day.
Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.