Memorial Day is a day when this nation stops to honor the more than 1 million citizens who died in America’s wars. About half that number perished in the Civil War, whose termination gave rise to the holiday in 1868. But what was then called Decoration Day didn’t just honor the soldiers and sailors who fought to preserve the Union; it honored the Confederate dead as well, even though they were considered enemies of the United States.
Friends, it’s time – long past time – to honor the spirit of the holiday by turning it into a day to remember the war dead of all nationalities, not just our own. Most of those who paid the ultimate price for participating in armed conflict thought they were doing battle to defend the territory, traditions, and honor of their nation or people. A great many were either forced to fight or duped into believing that they served the common good when they were really killing and dying to aggrandize elites hungry for wealth and power. But all of them, regardless of their motives or origins, deserve to be remembered with respect and sadness.
America, let’s grow up! Let’s get over our juvenile, provincial habit of grieving only for immediate friends and neighbors. Of course we miss them — but we are human beings above all, and all those who died in mostly unnecessary wars are our lost brothers and sisters.
Starting in 2017, let’s make Memorial Day an international holiday and celebrate it with the world.