2016-05-29 – On of Bill Clinton’s last actions as president was to sign the National Moment of Remembrance Act (December 28, 2000). I have to admit that I didn’t know about it at the time. I learned about it a few days ago because of a letter to Dear Abby from the president of a labor union asking us to share the moment to honor the fallen.
My observance of Memorial Day has been inconsistent. I’ve visited cemeteries, I’ve attended parades, I’ve gone to picnics, I’ve stayed home and done nothing. I don’t ever remember pausing at 3 p.m. (local time wherever you are) for a moment of remembrance.
I have to say that, when I read of this, my reaction was “What? Can’t we sustain our attention long enough to honor our soldiers with an entire day?” Was this just a national case of ADHD?
Holidays in this country have been degraded since I was a kid. In the 1950s and 1960s, commerce was pretty much shut down. A few food stores and restaurants might have been open on Memorial Day (or the 4th of July or Labor Day, etc.) for limited hours but most businesses were closed. You can’t say the same today. Commerce rules.
I can’t say why this changed happened. Perhaps in the fifties and sixties, veterans and survivors of the fallen were still fresh in their memories of loss from World War II. Perhaps Vietnam soured us. Perhaps the switch to a volunteer military made the suffering of war more distant and made us callous and cavalier about its use. Perhaps the daily media barrage has made us numb. Or perhaps nothing stops when there is a buck to be made.
So maybe there isn’t a full day in our lives left to remember. I guess a moment of remembrance is better than nothing.