“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
On the last Monday of May each year, we observe Memorial Day, a holiday honoring the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. It originated as a holiday known as Decoration Day following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many people commemorate Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials; some hold family gatherings or cookouts. There are often parades and community events. Unofficially, the holiday marks the beginning of the summer season. The remembrance of the millions of people who have died fighting for freedom, defending liberty and declaring independence should be a sacred responsibility and honor for all who have the privilege to freely live in this nation we call the United States of America but we often forget why we have the holiday and what we have to remember.
In these days when we feel overwhelmed by the injustices we see, the ever increasing income gap, the poverty and lack of educational opportunity, gun violence, governmental dysfunction and corruption, we must not despair but rather take a moment to remember that the story is not finished yet. The struggle for freedom, justice and equality continues, and we cannot give up or give in to complacency or be paralyzed by fear. Those who fought and died have given the ultimate sacrifice and have nothing more to give and so it is up to those of us who remain. We must never allow ourselves to simply stand by and watch as our freedoms are continuously challenged, our values tested and our rights and liberties questioned. We will not overcome every challenge or win every fight but we must never, ever give up. We cannot legitimately lay claim to the freedom, liberty and justice for which so many others have fought and died and do nothing in ourselves to advance that story forward. We owe it to our ancestors, our predecessors, and to those who are coming after us to continue to do what we can DO in the effort to fervently pursue the cause of justice, equality and liberty for all.
Knowledge of the past should be our teacher, but there are so many who have forgotten their history or who never learned it in the first place. It brings to mind the old quote by Edmund Burke that has been spoken in many variations, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Human history is fraught with horrors and atrocities that demonstrate humankind’s inhumanity towards one another and yet, there’s also a part of the human story that demonstrates an uncanny ability for humanity to elevate itself, to transcend the circumstances and to exhibit divine courage, supreme valor and the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow human beings.
Let us all take this moment to remember that we all have something we can do in the continuing struggle for justice, freedom and equality. What we must never allow ourselves to do is… Nothing. There is too much at stake in these treacherous and challenging times, and so many patriots and soldiers for justice have sacrificed so much to give us the opportunities we have. We are standing on their shoulders. Although we’ve come a mighty long way, there is so much farther we need to go. The struggle continues and we need everybody on the field. You have no right to complain if all you want to do is stand by and watch.