Monday, May 31, 2010

Seventy Words

There's a remembrance ceremony dedicated to a native son who gave his life in France during World War I, Peter Gallan at The Memorial Park in Taftville, around the corner from the Knights of Columbus starting at ten this morning.

There will be some remarks by local people who served in uniform in a variety of places around the world in both war and peace and who lived to come home and tell about it, as well as some words of comfort from a clergy person and if you're like me, you'll look around at the metal folding chairs and try to figure out how many of those who were here last year made it this year. The memory of sacrifice only survives until the last one who remembers has passed.

You probably have a ceremony very much like it where you live today and for all those who died in this country's wars so you and I could wear "Kiss the Cook" aprons and "I'm with Stupid" tee-shirts, cook raw meat over hot rocks and drink a little too much beer, it's never too late in the day to say 'thank you' so I hope you try to attend.

At the ceremony in Taftville this morning there'll be a contingent of Young Marines, who will serve as ushers and perhaps also as the color guard and after about forty minutes, we'll all go our separate ways. It's not really much time to honor those who spoke seventy words and meant them in their fullest measure.

We've been doing this a long time--not by other nation's standards, mind you. In comparison to the Great Nations of Europe, the USA is a snot-nosed kid (one admittedly who saved the aforementioned great nations twice in the last century) and who did a remarkable job of rebuilding enemies beyond both oceans, yes I mean Germany and Japan, while serving as a bulwark against the Soviet Union for seventy years. But in the Brave New World, it's 'what have you done for us lately?'

This afternoon, as part of continuing renewal of an old tradition, there'll be a parade from Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Broadway to Chelsea Parade with balloons, bands, veterans and lots of American flags as well as at least two folks NOT from here, one a prospective candidate for Governor and the other seeking to become a Senator in Washington D.C. A day honoring the sacrifice of those who died fighting in all the wars this country has been in really shouldn't be a platform for politics and posturing, so I hope the two of them do nothing more than smile and wave.

These are strident times in the Land of the Free. We have all manner of talking heads and websites pandering to every political flavor in the rainbow and tolerance and accommodation are in awfully short supply. We've become heavily entrenched in our own beliefs and less interested than at any time since the Nativist movement in what those disagreeing with us have to say about anything.

Perhaps, not as timely a reminder as anyone would like, are words that closed the second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln, all seventy plus four of them. "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Maybe we can resolve to use them as words to live by to act as a fitting memorial to all those we honor today.
-bill kenny

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