“They shall not grow old,– ‘For The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
As we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them.”
As The Stars and Stripes are waving all over the States, today, people are celebrating Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. It was 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 (the American Civil War),” as coined together by General John A. Logan.
Do you know that on Memorial Day, the U.S. flag flies at half-staff only for the first half of the day, and then is raised to full height from noon to sundown to honor the war dead for the morning and living veterans for the rest of the day? Image source
Logan’s wife, who was so moved by “the little flags and the withered flowers that had been laid,” was the one who suggested such celebration afterward.
That historical event was, and still should be the main highlight of the celebration, although Memorial Day was later expanded to honor and remember everyone who has fallen while serving in the U.S. military.
As this tradition has survived for so long since the 1800s, it rouses the curiosity on what makes this celebration so meaningful for the people.
Is it a mere tradition? Is patriotism enough to explain it? Or is there anything we have overlooked all this while?
It was about embracing humanity
No, we are not talking about Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War here. Image by Marvel Studios.
American Civil War, or also referred to as The War Between The States, marked a significant event in the historical timeline of the country.
Following the birth of the United States from the revolution during 1776-1783, Civil War determined the kind of nation it would be. The latter resolved two fundamental issues left by the former: one of which was about whether all men are granted the equal right to liberty or the country would remain as a slaveholding country.
President Abraham Lincoln, who was elected over his pledge of keeping slavery out, had to face the disapproval of the states to the idea. They consequently seceded from the union to form another nation, the Confederate States of America.
At the cost of 625,000 lives to regain the union and rebuild a newly united nation free of slavery, that long, painful journey is recorded in history as uplifting the humanity for the slaves.
Of slavery and true humanity
Slavery was once a legal institution of human chattel enslavement in America, and have been a practice since the colonial days far before.
Who were the humans being possessed, and even forced to work against their own will? They were the African and the African American. It was a racial caste, which is associated with the African ancestry.
One interesting point is there was even the dispute over The Origin of Man written by Charles Darwin that eventually reached the U.S. at the brink of the war in 1859. For those who were for slavery abolishment — the abolitions — upheld Darwin’s precept of the same primeval source, making black and white people share a common ancestor and thus are intimately connected.
As for those against, their argument was strengthened by other local prominent scientists at that time who claimed that the black and white people were created not just separately, but the blacks were different species, possessed different capacities, and inferior in term of hierarchy.
These points were perfect for them to rationalize slavery, but unacceptable and unrecognizable in our world nowadays, embracing humanity.
Humanity of today
What about today? Today, human enslavement is sadly still practiced illegally by some under the form of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the illegal smuggling and trading of people, whether for forced labor or sexual exploitation. The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that including the citizens and immigrants, 57,700 people are victims of human trafficking in the U.S. alone, and 48.5 million worldwide.
Moving forward, embracing humanity today should bring us to recognize human being beyond the parameters of possession and heavy work enforcement. Embracing humanity, in fact, talks about the altruism of fairness: about human dignity and subsequently humanitarianism (belief in the value and dignity of human life).
In many parts of the world, people are still suffering and even killed due to the greed of politicians and businesses with their self-serving agenda.
While today we commemorate those soldiers who lost their life protecting the nation, there are still thousands of civilians as well as honest soldiers out there who are being killed for the same reasons.
While today we are embracing the patriotism within our heart, waving the Old Glory, and singing The Star-Spangled Banner, there are civilians out there who gamble their lives to defend their land as well as their flag in which they are proud of.
With all these genocides and wars currently being waged in countries around the world, foreign interference and war mongering under the name of promoting democracy are not helping at all, if not making the situation worse.
Under the name of humanity, we should uphold the belief that everyone deserves to live in peace, dignity, and harmony in their own land.
Let those honored soldiers whom we stick the U.S. flag over them be in peace, for they are not able to prevent the fight over human dignity during their time from recurring today.