May 27, 2013

A national holy day.

"Scholars... often make the argument that the United States has a secular 'civil religion' — one with no association with any religious denomination or viewpoint — that has incorporated Memorial Day as a sacred event."
With the Civil War, a new theme of death, sacrifice and rebirth enters the civil religion. Memorial Day gave ritual expression to these themes, integrating the local community into a sense of nationalism. The American civil religion, in contrast to that of France, was never anticlerical or militantly secular; in contrast to Britain, it was not tied to a specific denomination, such as the Church of England. The Americans borrowed from different religious traditions so that the average American saw no conflict between the two, and deep levels of personal motivation were aligned with attaining national goals.

35 comments:

David said...

See "The Republic of Suffering" by Drew Gilpin Faust, presently the President of Harvard. It's a find book. The avalanche of death during the Civil War had a tremendous impact.

Faust is, not untypically for Harvard, a fine scholar who has been elevated to administrative leadership.

Harvard has been able to avoid eating her for lunch, as it did with the previous scholar to hold the post, Larry Summers. Wonder why?





David said...

"fine book."

rhhardin said...

It's a day of boring ceremonies and humbug.

iowan2 said...

Or......it is a day to honor those that served our nation......us.

AllenS said...

Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

CEO-MMP said...

Yes, what AllenS said, Memorial Day is for those that died. Veterans Day is for remembering those that served.

kcom said...

Show this paragraph to those who don't understand why Oklahomans fly the flag. It's the same deal.

Mitchell the Bat said...

"Scholars... often make the argument that the United States has a secular 'civil religion' . . ."

Or scholars could simply say we have a custom.

But then how many pages of footnotes could you spin out of that?

Rusty said...

Now would be a good time to thank all you who have served.
Thank you.
No amount of thanks will be enough for those who have fallen.

Kirby Olson said...

We always fought for liberty and justice for all and always will.

Larry J said...

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.


- "Taps", Horace Lorenzo Trim

ironrailsironweights said...

It's a pity in a way that Memorial Day falls in late May. Its date is close enough to the beginning of warm weather in many parts of the country that it has become celebrated mainly as the beginning of summer and its original meaning has been lost. Labor Day has a similar problem. If we celebrated Memorial Day at a different time, for example in late April, it would lose much of its beginning-of-summer meaning and the original meaning might be rescued from obscurity.

Peter

Paco Wové said...

Interesting thought, Peter. Maybe April 15th to commemorate Lincoln's assassination, and to emphasize the day's origin with the Civil War.

caplight45 said...

rhhardin said: "It's a day of boring ceremonies and humbug."

Get a cup of coffee or go back to bed or both.

My wife's Uncle Herman Kerk was killed in WWII. I am getting ready to send a brief note to a friend who's brother was killed in the Gulf War.

My friend, United States Navy Chaplain, posted this prayer:

Almighty God, we pause in prayer and gratitidue on this Memorial Day weekend. Our hearts and minds turn to the long and distinguished list of Patriots who walked a journey of service -- leaving behind a LEGACY of HOPE. May our eyes be fixed on the Torchlight of Liberty HELD HIGH BY THEIR SACRIFICE. And while we remember those who have gone before us, may we CELEBRATE and CHERISH LIFE with those AMONG US. Bless us now by the BOUNTY of YOUR HAND and the BROTHERHOOD of our Armed Forces Family ...

Skeptical Voter said...

I understand the "secular religon" meme. I see it when every public meeting (I sit on a civil service board at our local school district--attend various local public meetings etc.) starts with the Pledge of Allegiance. There is a deep and abiding love among most, but not all, of our populace for the idea of America.

You can call it "bah and humbug" if you will.

But yesterday I attended the wedding of the daughter of a friend of ours. The groom was a young ex USMC captain, now out of the service and in law school. The groom's father mentioned his son's education: University of Michigan, Georgetown, Fallujah and Sadr City. I don't know about Ann Arbor and Georgetown--but I'm glad that we still have fine young men who will volunteer to get part of their education at places such as Fallujah and Sadr City.

edutcher said...

Allen's right and, for the media not to make the distinction between this and Veterans' Day, is either an appalling display of ignorance (and laziness in not researching it) or the most colossal show of Barackesque contempt.

PS The fact that it is "a national holy day" and the Lefties deride it is why don't even respectthe country's "secular religion".

Roger J. said...

My friend and comrade in arms nails it. As always--thanks AllenS

caplight45 said...

Lee Habeeb writing at NRO termed Memorial Day, "this most sacred of all secular American holidays."

Sacred can have a broader meaning than something God-specific. We hallow or sanctify something by setting it apart from other things in the name of something higher or greater than ourselves. Hence Lincoln's immortal thought upon the fields of Gettysburg,

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

He was alluding a thoroughly Christian idea that it is the blood of Christ that makes the people of God the holy ones or "the sanctified." Just as Christ sacrifice has the power to make holy so too we recognize that it is the blood of the fallen that truly make the battle field sacred, holy, sanctified. But it is a secular or not God-specific sacredness.

So this is in a sense a sacred remembrance, day of the secular life and ideals that we share as Americans.

ken in sc said...

What AllenS said. Memorial Day is for the dead. Veteran's Day is for those who served. Armed Forces Day is for those serving now. As an aircraft mechanic, and later an aircraft maintenance officer, these holidays used to piss me off because I usually had to work. We had to prepare, launch and recover aircraft for a fly-by of a parade or ceremony somewhere.

Ann Althouse said...

"Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces."

I remember when many people, like my grandparents, said "Decoration Day." You were supposed to put "decorations" on graves of the war dead.

AllenS said...

Decoration Day is the former name of Memorial Day in the United States. Memorial Day began as "Decoration Day" in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War. It was a tradition initiated by former slaves to celebrate emancipation and commemorate those who died to end slavery in the United States.

Chip S. said...

rhhardin said...
It's a day of boring ceremonies and humbug.

A national holy day, not assholey day.

David said...

rhhardin said...
It's a day of boring ceremonies and humbug.

I live three blocks from the entrance to Beaufort National Cemetery. rhhardin you should come on down. There's a simple little ceremony every year, plus hundreds of families visiting grave sites. We have a lot of retired military around here.

We also have active military. Our parade features tons of floats, predominantly from African-American groups. (See below.) We also have active duty Marines and Navy from the local bases in dress uniform marching in the parade. Sometimes we get the Marine band.

You might feel differently about it, sir. If you come you can stay at my house.

Emancipated African-Americans are credited with inventing Decoration Day with a ceremony at the race grounds in Charleston in 1865. Whatever the truth to that, African-Americans adopted the holiday as their own in the south, and that tradition has stuck.

Robert Cook said...

"We always fought for liberty and justice for all and always will."

To quote Hemingway, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Chip S. said...

Y'know, Cook, when I'm driving w/ my sunglasses on the display on my car radio is filtered out completely.

Have you ever tried looking at the US w/o your Zinn lenses?

Roger J. said...

Mr Cook--the reality is that soldiers fight for other soldiers--

wyo sis said...

All your little memes might have to change if you speak to actual soldiers.
Idealism is very easy to mock.

Kirby Olson said...

Indivisible.

RJ said...

It's a pity in a way that Memorial Day falls in late May. Its date is close enough to the beginning of warm weather in many parts of the country that it has become celebrated mainly as the beginning of summer and its original meaning has been lost.

You can blame Nixon for that. Until him, Memorial Day was always the 30th of May, no matter what day of the week it fell on. When you had a midweek Memorial Day, it wasn't just another long weekend.

RichardS said...

"The Americans borrowed from different religious traditions."
In the 19th Century, the borrowing was from a variety of Protestant traditions. Has our Civil Religion expanded beyond that? Can it expand beyond that without undermining the very traditions that have made the United States such a welcoming place to so many, of all religions?

Robert Cook said...

"Mr Cook--the reality is that soldiers fight for other soldiers--"

Who's talking about soldiers? It's the government that decides when we're going to fight, and where, and why. In any reference to "why we fight" one can only be referring to government policy. Soldiers are the first victims of the state's decisions to go to war.

Rusty said...

morally bankrupt comrade bob pipes up.

So for you it's just another day off. Go ahead. grill some brats. have a beer. Display the flag upside down.
Have a good smug laugh.

Jeff Teal said...

On this day I prefer to think about the babe who lost their life because it's father wore a US uniform than about the small souled cooks of the world.

Robert Cook said...

Rusty,

Who's laughing?

Drago said...

Robert Cook: "Who's talking about soldiers?"

Probably the soldiers.

In any event, I don't think anyone is going to challenge the strategic "truth" of what cookie pointed out, that where/who/how we fight is decided by our elected leaders.

I think that for those of us who served alongside some fellows and gals who never came home we tend to think the answer to the question of "who and what we fight for" is answered at much more tactical and personal level.

No one is technically "wrong".

It just depends on precisely what it is you're asking and to whom.

"Hey you 2, stop arguing! It's a floor wax AND a desert topping"

"Great taste!"

"And look at that shine!"