Well, as I am sure you (particularly the folks in the good old US of A) are well aware, today is the last Monday in May, otherwise known as Memorial Day and the official start of summer. I hope you have been and are enjoying a long leisurely holiday weekend.
There are lots of blogs doing pieces on Memorial Day, so I’ll try to make this one slightly different.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and was established after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers.
Slight rant for a moment. I get irritated when I hear idiots talking about the US Civil War. The Civil War in America was fought between Union forces (made up of Americans) and Confederate forces (made up of Americans). This isn’t going to turn into a history lesson as to the why’s and the wherefore’s, but the point is that at the time of the civil war the States of America were anything but “united”. Use the term “American” please. End rant.
The chances are that you may already have seen Ken Burn’s fantastic documentary series called Civil War. When it first aired on PBS something like 40 million Americans tuned in and it has been distributed and shown on the BBC in the UK and in many other parts of the world since. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend that you do so. It is a gem of historical information, photography, narration, music – the whole thing is just wonderful.
I have always been fascinated by the Civil War. I have visited numerous battle sites and know some people who have little museums and take part in re-enactments and so forth. Because it was fought in the mid 1800s and featured such well known historical figures as Abraham Lincoln and Robert E Lee the impression I had (for no logical reason, as sometimes happens) was that it was an event that happened a very long time ago. Then I discovered that the last Union veteran of the Civil War, Albert Woolson only died in 1956, not quite within my lifetime, but close enough to make me realize that this was not so long ago at all.
So could it happen again?
In America I very much doubt it.
Civil Wars are part of the teething pains that most countries go through. They have happened in England, France, Spain, Portugal, China, Russia, Cuba, Korea, Vietnam, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and on and on; and they seem to be a constant phenomenon in one part of Africa or another.
There will probably be periods of increasing civil unrest in the US as the government ham fistedly tries to get itself out of the mess that it has caused by trying to steal more money from the ordinary people, but that’s a different thing. So I wouldn’t worry about it too much yet.
As for Memorial Day nowadays, it encompasses all Wars that American forces have been involved in, and it is a convenient marker to remind us of those who have willingly put their lives in harm’s way to protect us. The political decisions that lead to wars are not the fault of those sent to fight.
This weekend I have been remembering some of my friends who are no longer here. They are in a better place for sure, but they got there far, far too soon.