Memorial Day – What is There in a Name?

Every name has history that is connected with feeling and intention, with raw and terrible or wonderful past events. Every name wants you to remember that event. When that name is erased or changed, its history is no more. Conquerors take down heroic statues and rename villages in their own tradition. They work to eliminate  memory in order to control the conquered.

Take our national celebration of Memorial Day. Does anyone really know what this national holiday is about? Are we really celebrating the life of all the men killed in war when we go to the beach with our friends and family? Are we celebrating anything outside the pleasure of having a day off?

Some records show that the earliest Memorial Day commemoration was organized by a group of freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. This was their day of great happiness. Shouldn’t we feel that event and share their joy? Their being freed is our history and our freedom too.

But bigotry against the blacks continued. We forgot their freedom celebration until 1966 when the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial celebrating all our men killed in wars. We are to admire these men’s sacrifice. Slaves worked to death for our upper class wealth- forget it.

Knowing your history keeps you rooted and forms your identity. Forced eradication of  your past is the first step in ensuring outside ownership. Let us all own our pasts. Let no one cast a shadow on all that happened which made us who we are.

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