Humans are leaky beings. We have a tough time keeping much of anything inside of us for long- be it names, knowledge, or even a decent sense of who we are in an increasingly and oppressively loud and disjointed world. Fortifying agents are crucial and desirable for helping us to retain our sense of identity. This is a major reason why people seek out lifestyle accoutrements- everything from cars, boats, homes and other possessions, to personal adornments such as makeup, hairdo, piercings, jewelry, clothing and tattoos. Material emblems project an image or look with specific associations, which serve as mnemonic triggers, reminding us both of who we are and what we desire to be, as well as sending signals to others whom we may wish to attract or repulse, further strengthening our identity through tribal associations.
This has certainly worked for the Jewish people. The Old Testament records over 600 commands given them concerning appearance, lifestyle, governance and associations as a means, not only of holy living, but of retaining their unique character and identity in the midst of a world demanding conformity to non-kosher standards. Had they relented to these pressures, it would have meant the end of Jewish identity. Some of these commands go specifically to the importance of remembering what has been commanded – such as when they are instructed to wear a special fringe on their clothing, that, “… ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them.” (Num 15:39 KJV). Unlike forgetting, remembering is not a passive act – it is a very active one, requiring a volitional component. The fact is, without intentionally internalizing reminders of who we are and what we believe, the psychological structures defining us tend to break down, rendering us dissolute. In short, we dissolve.
Our beloved country is now in the midst of such disintegration, laboring under systems of higher education which undermine the dissemination of our nation’s noble heritage and ideals, an entertainment complex compulsively searching for creative new ways to slander, mock and revile traditional American values, and a judiciary too often ignoring the rule of law in favor of the lawless whims of radical leftist judges. Is it any wonder that our cities are plagued by the sporadic misguided wrath of millennial snowflakes? And this well before the rise of President Trump (consider the mayhem of the Obama-era Occupy movement).
In his 19th century tome, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville assesses America’s character thusly, “America is great because she is good,” following ominously with, “If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” America stands on the precipice of ceasing to be good, because too many of its people have forgotten what a good country does.
Memorial Day stands as a specially crafted opportunity to reflect on what it means for America to be good – what it means for America to be America.
This day of remembrance grew from memorials commemorating the sacrifices made in the midst of one of the most character-defining events in our history – The American Civil War. Lincoln’s words in remembrance of the dead at Gettysburg call us to cherish such memorials, “…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”
This Memorial Day, take time to celebrate the memory of those who made the highest sacrifice to keep the torch of liberty lit, as a reminder of our true heritage as a country – one that gives its utmost, and its best and brightest, for the highest causes of humanity; because remembering is more than just ‘not forgetting’ – it is to recollect that which has been dismembered. It is just such remembering that our nation needs right now.