A different America demands a different kind of Memorial Day | Monday Morning Coffee

To really honor the fallen, we need to keep working on the nation they died defending

May 30, 2022 7:07 am

UVALDE, TEXAS – MAY 25: A child crosses under caution tape at Robb Elementary School on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to reports, during the mass shooting, 19 students and 2 adults were killed, with the gunman fatally shot by law enforcement. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Today is Memorial Day. And as I write this column, the forecast calls for sunny skies and very summery temperatures of 91 degrees. It’s a day perfect for a parade, a barbecue, and gathering with family and friends.

But while this holiday Monday might be cause for some of us to celebrate, we should also pause to remember the day’s somber beginnings. After all, it’s right there in the name: Memorial Day.

With roots that go back to the Confederate south, with an eventual transfer to the north, Memorial Day always has been a day of solemn remembrance. It’s a day that we pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price to keep the rest of us safe. And we honor those who are serving now.

But these are different times, and they demand a different kind of Memorial Day.

Because, nationwide, 1 million American families who have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic, will set an empty place at their holiday barbecue. A beloved sibling, grandparent or spouse, who might have waved a flag during a Memorial Day parade, or chased a child around the backyard, won’t be with us today.

We must pause to remember them.

In Buffalo, the families of the 10 Black people who died in a racist shooting rampage at a grocery store are in mourning.

We must pause to remember them.

In Uvalde, Texas, the families of 19 children and two teachers who were gunned down at Robb Elementary School, are coming to terms with an unfathomable loss. The tragedy has been compounded with the news that the grieving husband of one of the slain teachers died of a heart attack days after losing his wife. And now their four children are orphaned.

We must pause to remember them.

The Rev. Robert Collier (center, hat), of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity, joined by allies, calls for more money for gun violence prevention programs during a rally in the state Capitol rotunda on Wednesday, 5/25/22 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek).

As I’ve written more than once recently, while the mass shootings in Texas and Buffalo have grabbed all the headlines, such explosions of violence are sickeningly familiar to the people who not only live in Pennsylvania’s biggest cities, but also its smallest towns.

Because it’s a poverty of opportunity that has contributed to a tragic spike in overdoses across the nation and across Pennsylvania. The U.S. surpassed a record of 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021, according to the Washington Post.

We must pause to remember them, even as we pause to remember all those who were taken from us too soon, whether by disease or natural causes, whether by accident, or by a murderer’s gun.

Because as we honor the fallen who paid the ultimate price defending our freedom, we must remember what values, what principles they died defending.

They died so that Black shoppers could walk unafraid through the aisles of a Buffalo grocery store.

They died so that American schoolchildren could go to class, and that their parents would not have to worry that day was their last on Earth.

They died to guarantee the still-unfulfilled promise of this nation, that freedom and opportunity are available to all, regardless of who they are, whom they love, or how they worship — or not at all.

They died to make sure that everyone has access to the vote, so that everyone can be a free and equal participant in this ongoing experiment. Not so they could watch a slow slide into authoritarianism fomented by people who are spreading the pernicious lie of a stolen election.

BUFFALO, NEW YORK – MAY 15: People gather outside of Tops market on May 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. Yesterday a gunman opened fire at the store, killing ten people and wounding another three. Suspect Payton Gendron was taken into custody and charged with first degree murder. U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland released a statement, saying the US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism”. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

That’s the America that our fallen died defending.

It’s still a work in progress. But after all we’ve come through, after all that we’ve lost, I still believe that we can become the nation that we want the rest of the world to see; that we can grow into the more perfect union that we teach our kids about in social studies class.

It’s the Memorial Day I’ll be marking today. I hope you will too.

Local students and supporters taking part in a national walk-out for abortion rights in Philadelphia, Pa. on 5/26/22.(Photo by Daniella Heminghaus, for the Capital-Star)
Local students and supporters taking part in a national walk-out for abortion rights in Philadelphia, Pa. on 5/26/22.(Photo by Daniella Heminghaus, for the Capital-Star)

Our Stuff.
In this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller runs down the state of abortion, infant, and maternal care in Pennsylvania.

Two state lawmakers are calling on state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to open an investigation into reports of abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention of churches in Pennsylvania, Cassie Miller also reports.

Gift ban advocates are looking to circumvent the Legislature’s GOP leadership, and directly pressure lawmakers for change, Marley Parish reports.

Our partners at City & State Pa. explain how Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto tally is defining his legacy.

State courts could overturn abortion bans in red states, our friends at report.

Russia has said ‘Nyet’ to any more visits from hundreds of members of Congress, including almost all of Pennsylvania’s Capitol Hill delegation, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Here in arsenal America, everything old is new again, opinion regular Dick Polman writes. And spare us your thoughts and prayers. Do your jobs, columnist Bob Lewis of our sibling site, the Virginia Mercury, writes.

En la Estrella-Capital: Los legisladores del Condado de Lancaster y aspirantes se preparan para un nuevo debate sobre los proyectos de ley de reducción de la violencia armada. Y el Proyecto de ley que permite equipos de prueba personales y tiras de análisis de fentanilo es aprobado por el comité de la Cámara de Representantes.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
Today is Memorial Day. State government is closed for the holiday.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s ‘Lovely Day,’ by the great Bill Withers. It’s just the sort of song to get a holiday Monday going.

Monday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link
The Baltimore Orioles got hammered, 12-2, by the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. Today’s a new day, fellas.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.