Monday, May 30, 2016
When we lived in San Diego, this day was mostly about hot dogs, hamburgers, and the social occasion. Rarely did I run into anyone there for whom the day had deeper meaning. Most knew why we mark this day, but I met quite a few – mostly younger people at work – who had no idea why the day was set aside. For them it was strictly a day of fun and food. When I ran into that, it always made me sad.
Here in rural northern Utah, where I've lived for over two years now, I'm still startled by the difference. It's impossible to live here without knowing why Memorial Day exists – there are news stories, placards, posters, and other reminders everywhere. The hospital where Debbie is staying has a poster and display in the lobby. McDonald's has a kiosk, very nicely done. Our grocery store has a table with remembrances of fallen locals. Organizations like the scouts, schools, and 4-H all hold events designed to help the kids understand. More than a few parents take their kids to the local memorials, services, and cemeteries. I could go on and on, but the real point is the pervasiveness of the honoring of the spirit of this day – something basically completely absent in San Diego.
One other manifestation of that honoring I particularly love: the display of American flags. Every town and city has flags hanging from lampposts and buildings. Many homes have special flags planted in the front, in public view, like the one planted in front of our home in the photo above (taken just this morning). These flags are courtesy of the local Boy Scout troops, who put them up on every patriotic holiday. Those who can afford it contribute $35 a year for the service, but I know that the homes of several locals who would like to have the flags, but who cannot afford it, are similarly festooned without cost to them. The result is that our local roads have dozens and dozens of flags on them – rarely can you go even a quarter mile in rural country without seeing one. Then of course there are many, many folks who (like us) permanently display a flag on their own flagpoles.
I love this patriotic display.
But it is a bit disturbing to me in a way – the presence of it here underlines the absence of it in our cities. It's the “two Americas” notion, and my own experience tells me it's very real. The urbanization of America is leading us to a culture I find frightening and ... un-American, and that makes me very sad for a reason totally unrelated to the sadness I always feel on this special day...