Memorial Day is supposedly a solemn occasion to remember Americans who died fighting in wars, a serious subject if ever there was one. Then why is it typically celebrated with beach parties and consumer product sales – even in the era of COVID-19? Businesses crassly exploit people’s grief and patriotism to make a buck. And politicians fall all over each other trying to show how much they care.
Really? They should stop being so arrogant and disdainful of working people – the vast majority of those who “gave all” to the bosses’ war machine. Trump, a draft dodger, even decided to celebrate this year at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a city with one of the highest COVID rates in the nation and still under a stay-at-home order. His desire for a photo-op violates local law and will end up costing the city millions.
But we should also take a look at this holiday’s history. Its origins were in the Confederacy during the Civil War. So its first honorees were soldiers who died defending slavery. And some of its most recent were U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq and other places defending big oil companies’ interests.
Memorial Day was officially on May 30 from 1868 to 1970, when Congress changed it to the last Monday in May to make it a three-day weekend holiday every year. Was that in recognition of a solemn occasion? This was in the middle of the U.S. war against Vietnam.
Working-class people need more three-day weekends. That’s for sure. But not at the expense of the memories of those whose lives were destroyed by the wars of slave owners and capitalist bosses.