As I walked my dog by the Catholic cemetery that borders my condo Monday morning, I heard echoes of Taps ring through the air and reflected on the dead who were being honored this past Memorial Day Weekend — men and women who gave their lives in service to our country and its highest ideals.
How do we honor the dead? Do we do so by going on picnics or taking part in Memorial Day sales, worshipping at the altar of the great god of consumerism? Do we sleep late or binge watch a favorite TV show? Do we go to the lakes or the mountains or the shore to relish the beauty of this incredible country that was bought with a price?
Or do we do the patriotic thing and not simply pay lip service to their sacrifice but rather sacrifice some of our time, energy and effort to maintain this democracy.
Lately, I have been growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of outrage that results from escalating level of egregious acts by the current administration. Like the proverbial frog in the boiling water, incidents that would have dominated the news for weeks on end with a previous administration get drowned out by the next unbelievable action and now, we have seemingly grown used to it.
That is how totalitarian rule takes root — when what was previously considered inconceivable becomes “just one more thing” and what was unacceptable becomes normalized. Norms and standards are relegated to the dustbin of history.
In just the past week, we heard the leader of this country (inaccurately) call for a charge of treason that would result in the death penalty to be applied to law enforcement officers who were simply fulfilling their duty; saw him while on foreign soil side with a brutal dictator who starves and murders his people against the former vice president of the United States; witness him distributing false and doctored video of the person who is second in line to assume his office if he were to die; and discovered that his administration covered up information about deaths of children seeking asylum, which could have impacted the midterm elections; and is now seeking to weaponize National Intelligence for political purposes.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Every day, it is something more heinous and intolerable, yet the sheer volume leads all of it to be drowned out, white noise that absorbs the death of democracy.
But what is most disturbing in this slide into what is becoming an increasingly authoritarian regime is the utter silence of so many elected leaders from his party. The rule of law is not intended to be partisan, and yet in the face of a stonewalling administrative branch that is seeking to cover up acts that are clearly obstructing the pursuit of justice, rare is any profile of courage who not only raises a concern but actually does something to stand up for the Constitution.
There are clarion calls from those who were leaders in the Department of Justice, National Intelligence, the State Department and military, of both political parties, making it clear that what is transpiring is not normal, not acceptable, and not conducive to that actions of a democratic nation.
Yet from elected GOP leaders who took a pledge to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, we hear crickets.
So my question this Memorial Day is how do we honor the dead? Do we take the time to ACTUALLY READ the Mueller Report rather than have someone tell us what it says?; to dig beyond the headlines to understand what it means when Intelligence is weaponized and why ignoring subpoenas and oversight is so dangerous?; do we pick up our phones and raise concerns, letting leaders of both parties know that we care more about our national values than we do about one elected leader.
Or do we simply let the water around us get hotter as we see democracy die?
Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And right now, we need to honor those who died in service to their country by being thoughtful, committed citizens. We need to continue to not grow weary in doing what is right, even if it seems fruitless and overwhelming.
If we don’t engage in activism and allow the kind of graft, lies and corruption that are daily becoming more apparent and yet somehow more acceptable, in the end, the deaths of all who died in service to our ideals will be in vain.
Abraham Lincoln concluded his famous Gettysburg Address by saying, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
How do we honor the dead? By demanding transparency, honesty and fidelity to the rule of law and taking the time and putting in the effort to move beyond whatever partisan blinders we may have one.
We honor the dead by caring enough about what they laid down their lives for, to stand up for not just the flag or the anthem but the values of the United States and its Constitution and laws.