Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day ... Let's Go Shopping!

Record consumer debt, negative savings, (negative savings ?) rising interest rates, a slump in the housing market, and soaring gas prices. All righty then, lets go shopping!

I was listening to the radio while eating lunch today and heard a forecast for the Memorial Day Sales. The prospects for this year’s Memorial Weekend sales is not particularly bright … as Memorial Day Sales Events go. What a shock! I know I’ve been getting sweaty just waiting to go out and run up the plastic ever since last year when I spent all that jack on all those Memorial Day “items”. I’m just stunned that this is not shaping up to be “The Biggest Memorial Day Savings Event EVER!"

We live in such a strange place. Or perhaps it is better described as strange times. This is the same place my parents and grandparents lived. Only difference appears to be that Memorial Day wasn’t seen as a shopping opportunity back then. But then, I am confident they of the depression generation would have winced to hear the term “negative savings”.

Google “Memorial Day” and you’ll get 202,000,000 opportunities to know more about the subject. The top of the list of course represents a shopping opportunity, a “memorial day special – all inclusive family package …” A disappointing insight into the place Memorial Day has come to.

A little further down the page you can find various interpretations of where this day of remembrance came from:

“It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868.”

Memorial Day was once known as Decoration Day, and was a time to go to the cemetery and do whatever you do to honor those who had died in battle, the war dead. So if we must mix Memorial Day and shopping what should be the top seasonal sales items? Flags, Caskets, Flowers, Guns?

It’s pretty easy to understand why we don’t hear as much about the intended purpose of Memorial Day as we do about the “Sales.” If the “average consumer” realized what Memorial Day was really about, they might be just a leeetle bit less inclined to go out and purchase whatever it is that will take them deeper into the “negative savings” zone. The idea of honoring the war dead, and getting a “deal” on a back yard barbecue, or a new I-pod might seem just the least bit incongruous. For those with any sense of dignity whatsoever it might seem disrespectful to be out blowing dough you don’t have, on ‘stuff’ you don’t need while the war dead wait, pretty much all year long out at that lonesome cemetery for someone to come along on their one day to express some sense of appreciation, or gratitude, or remorse, or in some way to extend some degree of honor to them.

I’m glad we had this talk. It has helped me rethink my perception of Memorial Day. I may not go to a cemetery, looking for a grave site of someone who died in battle, but somewhere along the way I’ll take a moment to extend some sense of honor for those who died in war. It won’t be gratitude, there are too many victims of war who weren’t necessarily doing anything war like for me to feel a sense of gratitude, but to have lost a life as a result of war, well this is your day and I’ll honor you for that.

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