Monday, May 30, 2011

Honored Everyday

It always seems in bad taste to say Happy Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is supposed to be the day we honor those who have sacrificed their lives while defending their country.  It dates back to 1868 when General John Logan proclaimed in General Order 11
“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

 I used to think Memorial Day was about everyone who died. I would take flowers and flags to the graves of all my relatives- sometimes spending two days driving around Northern California and walking through cemeteries, thinking of the lives that once were.

Often, my son would accompany me. We would read different headstones and wonder about all the people in their graves. Once when we were looking for my great- grandmother’s grave we happened upon a part of the cemetery that started being used in 1885. Their graves had been forgotten, overgrown with weeds and I’m sure forgotten by ancestors. Their headstones were weathered and hard to read but we stopped at many of them anyway. So many of them were children and young adults, too young to be there. That part of the cemetery had an eerie feeling- a lot of sadness.

My son would also perform this ritual with his father- visiting Japanese cemeteries. He noted once that the Japanese didn’t seem to forget their loved ones buried for eternity- like we do. I think he was glad I never forgot my relatives.

After my son joined the Marine Corps- I realized exactly what Memorial Day was. It’s to honor those who have given their life to defend our great Nation. It’s not really about Veterans and loved ones. Only after he became a Marine did I educate myself about all things war; all things great and horrible at once.

When Nick was stationed at Annapolis, he participated in the Flag-In ceremony at Arlington. He said it was an honor- and very moving to put a flag in the grave and salute to every single man and woman buried there.

Now, I don’t understand why these people are not honored everyday- by all of us. I think it’s okay to have your picnic and parade, spend the day on your boat, hiking in the mountains, cemetery hopping if you will… but we should not forget the people that allow us these freedoms. Give them a moment at least, or better yet,  wake up everyday grateful to the people that serve our country. Say thanks while they are alive.

Surely, the relatives of all the people who have died in wars don’t only remember them on Memorial Day.

Everyday, I will honor those who have sacrificed their lives so I may live mine in freedom. It’s not that hard really. You do it by trying to do the right thing by everyone, by not being selfish and worrying about only yourself, by looking at the bigger picture and not focusing on what’s wrong but how you can fix it. You do it by being generous of spirit, forthright and genuine.

Have a thoughtful Memorial Day everyone.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Older I Get...

The older I get, the less I understand life. The list of things I don’t get is growing and try as I do to understand what makes people tick, what makes people make the choices they do, I just can’t figure it out. I spend a lot of time shaking my head back and forth and opening my mouth in jaw dropping moments, completely baffled about how gullible or sometimes just plain stupid or completely off the charts crazy people are.

For instance: I don’t understand why people who are unhappily married stay together. Half the time, I don’t understand how these same people ever got together in the first place. From the outside looking in I usually see the train wreck coming – though sometimes it’s actually years away. I know: The kids, the money, too late to start over…I know all that- but it does not make sense to me. Life is just too short for misery that we can control.

I once had a boyfriend who I loved so much it drove me crazy (granted a it was a short drive). Together, like rabbits trapped in a cage, we bred insanity. Looking back, I can see how our friends and family saw us. Our on again off again relationship lasted more than a decade, sometimes secretly, in between and during others. I’m not sure what finally ended it. Just weariness I guess. Well -that and no booze.

During that crazy relationship- on one of our splits, I went to stay with my mom, while I waited for my brother to come from Escondido and bring me back home with him while I recuperated from this particular broken heart. I was watching the television with my mom when the news cut in to the local program to tell the world about the Jim Jones Massacre. I wondered then, how so many people could follow a man who was clearly insane. As I sat there, crying, thinking my world was coming to an end and wondering how I would be able to live without my Jim K.- the real end came for 918 people and something in me shifted. I remember journaling my feelings of despair, helplessness and confusion. Religion, I deduced- was the culprit. It was mass mental illness. My mother agreed.

Thirty-three years later… and people are still following crazy preachers. I watched with disdain and disgust as last week people actually prepared for the so-called “Rapture”. I read about one man who drove 3000 miles across the country to come to the Bay Area for the Rapture… and people who gave away their lives savings, quit their jobs, gave away all their belongings- and they have no recourse. They can’t sue this nut- they got suckered. They had faith.

Harold Camping, the nut that started this whole mess, and who has supposedly studied the Bible for more than 50 years, believed that on May 21, 2011, 6PM-ish, a massive earthquake would’ve hit New Zealand and from there continued quaking around the world during the next 24 hours until May 21 is reached on both time zones. At the end of this 24-hour period, Harold Camping said believers would go to heaven and the rest (of us sane people) would be left on earth to face final judgment before the earth is destroyed.

Remember the other nut? What was his crazy name? Do? (pronounced Doe) (I always want to say Bambi) Marshall Applewhite. He had followers too- they are all dead now. His was a UFO religion. They didn’t consider it suicide, they just called it leaving the earth so their souls could get on the spaceship to “another level of existence.” They had faith.

I found a whole list of crazy religious movements- check this out.

I do understand there is religion without mass mental illness. I understand faith- but prefer irrefutable facts and science. I like proof. I research and research to make sure things make sense.

Okay- so back to why people stay together when they are clearly better off apart. Is it mental illness? Fear of the unknown? Laziness? Apathy? Is it fear of failure or the perception thereof? Is it FAITH that things will change? I’m still wondering. But, if any of you have the answers- please feel free to explain. Just bring the proof.