Jane, you ignorant slut's eloquent essay yesterday prompted me to ask myself why Memorial Day has not had much meaning to me. The obvious reason is that my family is not a military family. Other than a few cousins, friends and my grandfathers in World War II, military service and the attendant celebration of that service was not something that was ever present in my life.
The less obvious reason Memorial Day has so little meaning for me is that I don't associate my rights and identity as an American to the wars we have fought. The phrase, "Freedom Ain't Free," rings completely hollow for me. The last war that had direct consequences for my freedom was the Civil War when African-Americans were freed from slavery. Since the Civil War, the largest threats to freedom for African-Americans and other people of color have been from our own country— Redemption, Jim Crow, segregation, lynchings, native genocide, Japanese internment, the justice system, etc. were (and are) far more profound threats to freedom for people of color than any foreign power has presented.
I am about as big a patriotic, chauvinistic American as the next woman, but my American pride is not tied to wars we've fought; it's tied to the people who marched in American streets for justice, who challenge the United States to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence, and who defend and believe in the Bill of Rights and use those rights to work peacefully for the betterment of all citizens.
Of course, today isn't just about me, nor is it just about people of color. It isn't about the ideological battles that we fight in this country. It is about the people who sacrificed their lives on our behalf, even when the reasons for their sacrifice was not clear or defensible. The fact that we have a military that is ready to act on our behalf, regardless of what party is in power, is a huge gift that everyone should take a moment to recognize.