SEPTEMBER 11th MATTRESS SALE!!! OUR PRICES ARE CRUMBLING!!

SEPTEMBER 11th MATTRESS SALE!!! OUR PRICES ARE CRUMBLING!! Pretty offensive isn’t it? I agree. But I use that to make a point. Will one day such an obviously callous advertisement become the norm? It’s possible. We do the exact same thing to Memorial Day. Over 1 million US military men and women have died in service of our country from 1776 to 2015.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in 1866. Various towns across the country held their own observances at the time, one of the first being in Carbondale, IL April 29, 1866 (though Waterloo, NY is officially recognized as holding the first Decoration Day on May 5 of that same year). The idea quickly spread and by 1868 it became an unofficial day for the nation to decorate the graves of those killed on both sides of the Civil War. Decoration Day was held on May 30 most likely due to the fact that flowers would be in full bloom nationwide. After the First World War, the day of observance was expanded to honor those lost in all American conflicts. It wasn’t until a hundred years after the first Decoration Day was held that President Johnson signed the bill officially declaring Memorial Day a national holiday and moving it to the last Monday in May effective May 1971.

In 1868, General John A. Logan said this of Decoration Day, “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. 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.”

The purpose of the day we now call Memorial Day was also clearly stated by President Theodore Roosevelt in a speech delivered on May 30, 1902 at a Memorial Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery: on this day, the 30th of May, we call to mind the deaths of those who died that the nation might live, who wagered all that life holds dear for the great prize of death in battle, who poured out their blood like water in order that the mighty national structure raised by the far-seeing genius of Washington, Franklin, Marshall, Hamilton, and the other great leaders of the Revolution, great framers of the Constitution, should not crumble into meaningless ruins.”

And yet, here’s how we celebrate what has in reality simply become the official start of summer:

Memorial Day, Decoration Day, Sales

Memorial Day, Decoration Day, Sales

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And last but certainly not least:

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Happy Memorial Day!!! Are you kidding? 1.1 Million people dead so you can enjoy your hot dogs, happy day!!!!

Now listen, I am not against bar-b-ques and picnics and ballgames this holiday weekend. I think one of the best ways to honor those who died for our freedom is to spend some time enjoying that freedom with friends and family. But I also think time needs to be taken to remember why it is we have the day off from work, why it is we are able to grill out in the yard while the kids run through the sprinkler and Bob Seger blasts from the speakers and it has nothing to do with 25% off sales or freaking Mickey Mouse. Real lives were lost. Real men and women died in muddy fields far from home, cold and alone, in jungles and on blood soaked beaches, in the sweltering heat of deserts and frozen and frostbitten in what would become New England as well as half a world away, they drowned in burning seas and were beaten and tortured in POW camps, they died of disease and malnourishment on the Bataan Peninsula and in airplanes over the Pacific, and they died back here at home from wounds both mental and physical, of cancers, suicides and other maladies directly caused by their time of service. In most cases the casualties were young – in their teens and early twenties. Young, brave, self-sacrificing and dead.

All the great things we have today, the freedoms we enjoy, the rights that protect us from our own government, the ability to come and go and work and play and read what we want, say what we think, write out our beliefs and distribute them to others, and to worship or not worship in the manner we choose, all of that is because those men and women died on the battlefields, in the camps, and while training so that we may live our lives in liberty. Most of them died at a time when the comforts and privileges of life in 21st century America couldn’t even be imagined. Think about that, they died not only to preserve the life they knew then, but also to protect a future America they couldn’t imagine in their wildest dreams. Our America. And we use the day set aside to honor their sacrifices to save 30% on towels? That, my fellow Americans, is wrong.

Enjoy the day. Grill out, let the kids play, but take a moment to remember what the day is all about. Let’s not get so caught up in our consumerism that we become the generation to have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

Blessings & Curses and Trouble on the Horizon – A Passage from the Novel In The Sanctity of Revenge

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse…

– Moses, Deuteronomy

Skeletal arms trembled, struggling to lift the old steel revolver. Blue and purple veins popped through celluloid skin. Shaking hands with frail fingers and rusted joints fought with the trigger to pull the heavy hammer back. Jack Hanlon smiled at the sight.

SATURDAY JUNE 5, 2010

The sun hung high in the cloudless afternoon sky, drying the sidewalks and baking away the evidence of the viscous storm of the night before. Small branches and twigs littered the lawns and gutters of the sleepy Chicago side street. The two opposing rows of brick bungalows, most redbrick, some yellow-brick, that lined either side of Mobile Street had weathered the storm as they had done for close to a century now. There was no major damage. A few basements had taken in water, but just enough to make a mess before receding back into the floor drains.

Saturday morning was uneventful at the Hanlon home. Amy had gotten up with the boys and made them blueberry pancakes for breakfast while Jack slept in. Around noon, dressed in the gym shorts he’d slept in, cheap slippers, and an old softball shirt that read “Mad Dogs” in script across the front from his Wednesday night 16” league (on the back was an ad for their sponsor Windy Ray’s Tavern), Jack lifted the lid to the black, iron mailbox hanging on the wall just outside his front door. It was empty. He stood on the front porch, and peered up and down the quiet street in hopes of seeing the mailman walking his cart down the block. No luck.

Across the street Mrs. Kelly watered her flowerbed despite the heavy rains that had doused them overnight. When she saw Jack, she waved. Jack waved back and tried to duck back into the house before the old lady could trap him into a conversation but it was too late. She’d already dropped her hose and was heading across her small patch of perfect lawn calling his name, “Jack, oh Jack. I want to talk to you.”

It’s not that Jack disliked Mrs. Kelly. In fact, he liked her very much. She reminded him of his grandmother, and he felt a sort of responsibility toward her since her husband passed. Jack would spend weekend days doing little jobs around Mrs. Kelly’s house, fixing this, patching that. Amy would take her shopping if the weather was bad and the buses were running slow. But lonely widows can talk an awfully long time, and make a big deal about things of no consequence, and frankly today Jack wasn’t up for one of those conversations. His mind was elsewhere.

“Jack,” she called hustling across the street. “Jack, I want to talk to you. Don’t go anywhere.” She hurried as quickly as a seventy-eight year old woman in Walgreen’s sneakers can. Jack stepped off his porch and met her on the sidewalk.

“Hi Mrs. Kelly, how are you?”

“Oh, I could complain, but who would listen,” she replied.

‘Apparently, this morning, it’s going to be me,’ Jack thought, but held his smile.

“Anyway, did you hear that storm last night? It woke me from a sound sleep. I thought lightening hit that big tree and that it was going to fall in on my head. Thank the Lord it was just a clap of thunder. Did it wake the children? You look like you missed a good night sleep.”

“Yeah, Timmy woke up a couple of times, but went back to bed pretty quick. Once I was up though, I had a hard time falling back to sleep. I wish I was more like Amy, she gets up with the kids, and as soon as her head hits the pillow again, she’s out cold.” Truth was, Jack was already up. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately.

“That’s because women work harder than men,” Mrs. Kelly gave a wink and a smile.

“In my house, that is certainly the case. I won the lottery when I married Amy. She’s one of a kind.”

“Don’t you forget that Jack Hanlon,” she said, her eyes narrowing, then flashed him a wink and a smile. Jack had often thought that Mrs. Kelly had probably been a very beautiful woman in her youth, and now and then a flash of that girl would appear in that wink and smile she often gave to let you know she was teasing. “Ah, she coulda done worse herself too ya know,” Mrs. Kelly continued, “Anyhow, the reason I stopped you is because I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”

“Sure Mrs. Kelly, what do you need?”

“Well, the storm last night did knock a huge branch off the neighbor’s tree into my backyard. I’ve been telling them for months now that the tree needs to be pruned, but that good for nothin’ bum sits on his backside all day doing nothing, and you know she’s not much of a housekeeper. I’ve never been inside, but from what I hear there is crusted food all over the kitchen and dust bunnies everywhere. How people could live like that is beyond me. Anyhow, I know he’d never move it from my yard, or at least I’d be waiting till my last breath for him to do it, so if you wouldn’t mind just stopping by – when you have time of course, no hurry – and just put it out in the alley for me?”

“Of course Mrs. Kelly. Give me a minute to put on a decent pair of shoes and grab a saw and I’ll be right over.”

“You’re a doll Jack, thank you. You know, since Harold died I’ve really come to realize how nice it was to have a man in the house. I am certainly for women’s equality and what not, but there’s no denying that there are some things men are better at taking care of. Maybe I’m just an old woman, I don’t know. And don’t you dare tell a soul I said that or so help me God I’ll shoot you right in the face,” she smiled and winked at him again with that twinkle in her warm blue eyes. That’s when Jack had the vision of those skinny little arms struggling to raise a pistol to eye level and fighting to pull the trigger. The thought had made him smile and he wondered if she noticed. Of course, if he knew what would eventually come of them all, he never would have found such a scene amusing.

“Okay, see you in a few minutes.” Jack turned to go inside, then stopped and turned back toward Mrs. Kelly who was about to cross the street back to her house. “Mrs. Kelly, did you happen to get your mail yet?”

“No, he hasn’t been by yet Jack. It’s that new fella. I don’t like him very much. He’s slow. When we had the black fella…” she said the word ‘black’ a little quieter than the rest, almost a whisper but not quite, “… we always got our mail by ten o’clock, even on Saturdays. This guy though, you never know when he’s gonna decide to show up. I’ve complained several times.”

“I’m sure you have. Thank you Mrs. Kelly.” Jack took another look up the street for the mailman, then dropped his head and went in the house to fetch his shoes and chainsaw.

I’ll Begin With The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate… we can not consecrate… we can not hallow… this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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 before us… that from theses 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, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

— Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

President Lincoln delivered those words at the dedication of The Soldier’s National Cemetery on a battlefield in Pennsylvania. Though that civil war is over, I can’t help but think that the fight for a ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ is an ongoing one. Not all wars are fought with bayonets and rifles, with missiles and tanks. It seems to me that whenever people are free, wherever there is liberty for the masses, someone is at work to take that freedom away.

As a result, the war for the idea of America… the idea that all men are created equal has been fought on the battlefields at home and abroad, in courtrooms, town squares, and in our city streets since we won our independence so many years ago. We have won some battles which have brought us closer to the ideals on which we were founded, evidenced by a Presidential election that saw a Latino, a black man, and a woman vie for the Presidency of the United States, as well as the increasing recognition by individual states that sexual orientation should not be used as grounds for withholding the basic human rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

However, the fight continues with new and resurgent attacks against our liberties. New technologies that invade our privacy by both government and business interests have infiltrated our daily lives and invaded our homes. The oft effective and readily used excuse of safety and security is once again at the forefront of reasons why we the people should relinquish that very basic and human right to privacy. That argument is being wielded as it has been throughout the course of history by those in power to leverage their will upon the people by convincing the people to voluntarily give up what was so violently and costly won.

There also seems to be a contradictory struggle between those fighting for liberty against the tyranny of those who would impose his own religious beliefs upon society at large. I call it a contradictory struggle because the basic strategy in that fight is to attack and suppress the basic freedoms of religion. It is no more your right to extinguish your neighbor’s right to worship as it is his right to force upon you his beliefs.

We must rediscover a balance, or find a new balance in these changing times and shifting mores, in which we are all free to worship or not, believe or not, in the manner which we choose for ourselves. The global war we find ourselves in these days is the result of religious extremism and lack of tolerance. Why is it then that our response to that threat is to scatter to our own corners of intolerance and religious or secular extremism. We are strongest when we are one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Whether you feel that nation is under God or simply under the clear blue skies of freedom, our collective response should be in the spirit of Liberty. Under that spirit, we are indestructible by outside forces. Respect your neighbor’s belief in God. Respect your neighbor’s lack of faith in a higher power. Share the earth hand in hand and let God or nature prove who’s right and who is wrong at the end of time, but don’t spend your life fighting over what is so personal and unprovable. To fight over that is contradictory to the both the Bible and the ideals of Liberty. So live and let live and stand together as Americans. That is what sets this nation apart from so many others on earth.

This is a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is our duty as citizens of this great nation to educate ourselves, to read, reason, and react rationally to the issues of our day and to become involved in a process that has been hijacked by special interests and greedy politicians. In this way we can ensure that those who have fought for, died for, marched for, and lived for our freedoms have not done so in vain.

If America is ever to crumble, it will be from within. Our greatest enemy today is the corruption of our government. Of the people, by the people, and for the people does not exist if those whom are elected to power are there to serve only their self-interests and are willing to do so at the expense of our nation’s. It seems to me that that is becoming more and more the case. Record tax revenue is met with record spending and yet so many of our population goes without the basic necessities of life. Our bridges and infrastructure crumbles, our schools fail, our elderly go hungry, our veterans go without medical care, our borders are porous, and our debt rises all the while rich men and women get elected to public office to be servants of the public but behave only as servants of themselves and they become richer on the backs of the American people. This trend has got to stop. Without a representative government, this notion of Liberty and justice for all cannot survive.

We cannot forget what President Lincoln so eloquently said that day in Pennsylvania, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task before us… that from theses 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, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Happy Fourth of July everyone. Stay safe. Put aside your political and theoretical differences for the day and embrace the ideals we share despite our differences and celebrate that great notion upon which this country was founded. Celebrate that idea because that idea is America, and America is beautiful.