These days, Memorial Day is all about burgers and beers, beach days and maybe some deeply discounted retail shopping. But, of course, it isn’t. It’s about war and the people who fought in them — namely the Civil War, where 620,000 Americans died. Where today’s Memorial Day is little more than an excuse to party America-style, it used to be a somber day, a day when Americans would decorate graves with flowers, and try to remember the bad times so we didn’t fuck up and make another war ever again.
So this year for some reason it bothered me to see all these Memorial Day guides highlighting how to do Memorial Day properly, or whatever the title is. What to eat, what to drink, and what to wear. All the big magazines, all the cooking sites, they’ve all got them up. You do the weekend well via burgers, light beer, mint julips, gingham plaid, and other Americana fare. Treat yourself! Maybe I shouldn’t think that the disconnect between the holiday’s intent (somber reflection) and it’s actual celebration (party time), is, well, weird. Maybe I’m judging. Maybe I should get off my high horse and get down on a lager instead. But then again, it’s also OK to be sad and really think about things.
Overall, I’m not suggesting you don’t go to the beach, shred your heart out, and eat a burger this weekend. Hell, eat three, and wash them down with a Coors Light (even though it’s not full-blooded American). But while you do that, maybe be appreciative that you have that opportunity in the first place. That things aren’t that bad maybe, that despite the headlines, we live in a country that nets out to pretty fucking awesome…at times. That we can still — for the moment at least — travel freely and explore other lands. And the biggest decision to be made this weekend is Cheddar or Swiss. Just take a second to breath it all in and remember the good and the bad. But remember it’s OK to be sad too. In memory of. —Paul Brewer