Skip the Sales and Pancakes this Memorial Day and Honor the Sacred Dead Instead

Commentary on Memorial Day, by Judge Michael Warren

I love pancakes, especially at the International House of Pancakes. However, when I sat down recently at my friendly neighborhood IHOP, I was barraged at the table with the message that I should “celebrate Memorial Day” by buying red, white and blue pancakes. My stomach ached instead of hungered. We should honor Memorial Day, not cheapen it with pretty pancakes.

Judge Michael Warren

Judge Michael Warren

Of course, IHOP is hardly an outlier. Look around, the crass commercialism of Memorial Day is overwhelming. Overstock.com notes assert, “It wouldn’t be Memorial Day without a sale on your favorite home goods and summertime apparel.”

Bonkers. On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, promulgated General Order No. 11, which was the first official promulgation of Memorial Day. General Order No. 11 provided that flowers be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers on May 30, 1868. Logan’s Order declared, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.” Indeed.

In a Memorial Day speech in 1884, Oliver Wendell Holmes answered, “the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up” by explaining that “it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly … We can hardly share the emotions that make this day to us the most sacred day of the year, and embody them in ceremonial pomp, without in some degree imparting them to those who come after us.”

President Ronald Reagan remarked on a Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery that the holiday “is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others.” Reflecting on the soldiers of Viet Nam War who had given their last full measure of devotion, he observed, “They chose to be faithful. They chose to reject the fashionable skepticism of their time. They chose to believe and answer the call of duty … They seized certainty from the heart of an ambivalent age; they stood for something.” He also remarked, “We owe them something, those boys … a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, know that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong.”

In his order, Logan reflected he hoped the Memorial Day would become an annual tradition, and it has. With World War I, that tradition expanded to include all war dead; eventually it became a recognized holiday celebrated each May 30.

Unfortunately, the ravages of time have yielded not only neglect, but also forgetfulness. In 1971, the fatal error occurred – the Uniform Monday Holiday Act fixed the celebration of Memorial Day to the last Monday of May. Congress, botching up its own creation, corrupted it with a three-day weekend. The “most sacred day of the year” was perverted into an empty excuse for barbecues, sales, and mini-vacations.

Judge Warren Honors Memorial Day

Judge Warren Honors Memorial Day

To hope that Memorial Day will ever entirely recover its original meaning for most is a hopeless cause – the commercialization and habits of generations have undermined it too much. That is why my daughter Leah and I created Patriot Week – with the hope of establishing a new civic calendar to renew the spirit of America.

Patriot Week celebrates the First Principles, Founding Fathers and other Patriots, vital documents and speeches, and flags that make America the greatest nation in world history.

Like Memorial Day, most of our current civic holidays have become overly commercialized and lost their deeper meaning. We need to invigorate our appreciation and understanding of America’s spirit. Anchored by the key dates of September 11 (the anniversary of the terrorists attacks) and September 17 (Constitution Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution), Patriot Week does just that. It is a grassroots effort that has taken off in Michigan and elsewhere.

Without such a civic renewal, we are doomed to forget what makes America unique, and lose ourselves in the process – a fate too terrible to contemplate. America needs your help. To learn more, visit www.PatriotWeek.org.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Michael Warren is a former member of the State Board of Education, author of America’s Survival Guide, and co-creator of Patriot Week.

Comments

  1. it would be nice to be able to meet all the judges in a public setting, to share our thoughts, and when judges are bad boys and girls , let them hear it first hand from the public and explain themselves. Judges breaking the law is a serious problem now a days and needs to be corrected. not stating judge warren but others.

  2. Thank you, Judge.

    Matt W. Zeigler, P25967
    SP/5, RVN, 1969-1970

  3. There is still hope, good Sir. In little Chestertown, MD, a town of 5000 on the Eastern Shore, the weekend was celebrated by 20,000, who had come from the surrounding area to celebrate the nation’s beginnings as well as remember those who paid the ultimate price for helping us all enjoy America’s freedoms. As it was for Patriot week in Detroit, Benjamin Franklin spoke, parades featured Revolutionary garbed units, and local citizens festooned their lawns with flags commemorating the saccrifices of a whole line of heros. Despite the brats and beer, Ben Franklin’s three speeches across the weekend were marked by overflow audiences. Reverence for our past is not lost entirely amongst the red, white, and blue pancakes at IHOP. Best wishes.

  4. Douglas Washington says:

    Well said! We are looking forward to this year’s Patriot Week events!

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