Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Other Memories for Memorial Day

Roadside memorial for Anthony "Tony"...

Image via Wikipedia

    People die every day, and there is a scramble to give meaning to their lives.

   When the young die in war there are dignified rituals to acclaim that they were brave, courageous and sacrificed themselves for us all. Drums roll, guns roar and loved ones clasp folded flags as proof of the family’s valor.

   For the young who were not soldiers but robbed of life by treacheries of fate, the scramble for meaning is fierce. Middle-of-night car crashes, drug abuse, senseless violence, simple carelessness, or disease claim too many before the meaning of their existence has accrued.

    Then there is the struggle with obituaries, and funeral officiants grapple with appropriate eulogies: The kid had a great smile. Made everyone laugh. Touched the lives of all who were met. Was the life of the party. The apple of the parents’ eyes. What there was not enough of was time for accomplishment, to make a mark.

    Then little families gather on days fair or not so fair, and words are said with eloquence that can be mustered for the occasion, but nothing will temper the sorrow. And all without fanfare or crisply-dressed young warriors snapping to attention, or the sound of Taps.

    This may be hard to face, but there it is. We spend so much time denying the futility of certain deaths, and less on how to staunch the causes. But the briefest of driving trips cannot be taken without spotting the sad, little flowered roadside memorials, which are passed too quickly to see a name, only the mute testament that here a young life ended, one that now cries out wordlessly, and forever.

    Of course we always look for someone to blame, and too often it is those who spend lifetimes shepherding our children through the wisdom of the ages in class instruction or teaching them the value of teamwork and achievement through the healthy competition of sports.

    The blame-game extends to deciding who is and isn’t a fit teacher, and who among them is deserving to stay or go. We dangle compensation and benefits like carrots before their eyes, with threats of withdrawal if they don’t hold their mouths right.

    We won’t permit our teachers to talk about health if it has anything to do with safe sex, or about varieties of sexuality and our attitudes towards them. And heaven forfend we should expect ourselves to be as perfect as we expect them to be. When mistakes are made, let’s say so, but let the correction fit the error.

    As for alcohol abuse, what are the lessons from home? Is the use tempered? Is its proper use discussed and expectations stated? Is it named for what it is: the Great Killer, more so than all others combined, or do we refuse to call it a drug? If so, that’s hypocrisy.

    Then there are the auto deaths. What do kids hear and observe from adults in the family: that a car is a weapon or maybe a plaything? When I last taught a young man to drive, I took it as a sacred responsibility. The first time he put his hand on the driver’s door, I asked him to stop and “put on his humility,” and did so as we began each lesson. Maybe this will flash to his mind often enough throughout life as the first obligation of the privilege of operating a vehicle. And while operating a car, to drive defensively.    

      Violence among the young is another result of hypocrisy. Competition is one thing, as is its corollary, teamwork. But bullying is a plague that we choose not to stop. The abuse of kids who are not the “norm” is a great social and family failure.

     There are many lessons learned elsewhere as in school: the god of American culture has trickled down from pro sports to colleges and into elementary levels, with the message that it’s okay to let violence run freely, leading to misbehavior on the field and court, and to a cult of athletic celebrity that is winked at as long as the player, and his or her team, wins.

     But we blame schools and not our culture for whatever is wrong with our kids because the culture is ours and we refuse to be held accountable. The lesson then is always to look for someone else to hold responsible, and that the easiest targets are those who are most vulnerable. We can’t shut up loud mouthed pros who are beyond our grasp and control, and we certainly won’t stop watching and cheering for their antics. But we let our children defy legitimate authority. What a nation.

     Prior to many youthful deaths is often the death of their hope, opportunity and, too often, of responsibility and accountability. Something to ponder at the unnecessary loss of our children.

    If there is anything to “remember,” on Memorial Day, let it be that.

One Response to “Other Memories for Memorial Day”

  1. Well said!

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