Saturday, May 29, 2010

Remembrance & Reality, Part II

"The Old Guard" marches in a funeral procession at Arlington
National Cemetery earlier this month.

So nice, I'm posting them twice. Gorgeous, inspiring stained glass windows depicting the first playing of "Taps" for a fallen soldier in 1862, and of the ethereal bugler, the angel Gabriel. These are among the windows of the Chapel of the Centurion in Virgina, the Nation's oldest, in-use military Chapel.
(Note: Yes, I know Arlington is in Virginia. Just a slip of the brain!)
Remembrance & Reality, Part II (Part I is just below - scroll down)
I just returned from purchasing red geraniums, white dusty miller, and blue lobelia. I believe that planting any living thing, nurturing it, and reveling in the beauty of a growing plant or tree is a tribute to all those who have passed into the next phase of being. I also believe that gardening is an art form, with an almost infinite palate of colors, shapes, sizes, textures, fragrances, possibilities and opportunities for individual artistic expression.
I'll plant in the coolness (I hope) of the evening.
I don't have the patience to listen to "talk radio" all that often. But the significant other (S.O.), who leans ever so slightly to the right, but can still be reasoned with, really enjoys talk radio. Whether he agrees with the speakers/personalities or not, he gets a big kick, and I suppose intellectual stimulation, from listening to the mouthpieces of the right.
I am often held hostage while riding in the car, or simply when hanging out in our bedroom, by his devotion to right-leaning radio. And, as an Independent, (and often to my surprise,) I sometimes find myself agreeing with those I consider to be fanatics, zealots, and out and out nut-jobs whose mouths I'd like to stuff with stinky socks.
One day last week was such an occasion. One of the poster-girls of the right was going on (and on, and on . . . ) about President Obama's plans to spend Memorial Day in Chicago. I'm listening to the news at this moment, talking about the President's presence on the Gulf Coast, which is a really, really good thing, as I was starting to long to see Obama, dress shirt sleeves rolled up, rescuing a pelican from an oily fate - me and my imagination strike again!
I don't want to get too far off the track here, but I suppose it's not a president's place to actually roll up his (or HER!!!???) sleeves and dive into an oil clean-up. Is it? I'd like some feed back from readers. Where does a president draw the line in a case such as this?
But I was feeling that the President needed to become more visible on the Gulf Coast, so I'm very glad, whether some consider it a day late and a dollar short or perfectly timed and appropriate, that Mr. Obama appeared at the places devastated by this disaster this weekend.
I am aware that he was on the Gulf Coast a few weeks ago, but to me, it seems that the time that has passed since the initial incident on April 20 is sadly equating to a lifetime for the humans and creatures that rely on the Gulf Coast's fragile ecosystem, beautiful environment, and breathtakingly blue waters and white beaches to sustain their very lives.
"Not every judgement we make is going to be right the first time out," Obama admitted yesterday, and I have to give him a lot of credit for honesty in this case.
For now, I'll hope that God grants a miracle to the Gulf Coast and to his partner, Mother Nature.
Back to where the President should spend Memorial Day.
If Mr. Obama, a self-proclaimed champion of the war in Afghanistan, chooses not to appear in Washington D.C.'s Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, I believe that those who will be offended by his choice have every right to be offended. The Commander in Chief, during war time, whether he started the war, likes the war, dislikes the war, should be at Arlington in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
Since I first began observing Mr. Obama closely, when he dashed Hilary Clinton's hopes of becoming president (which really pissed me off!) I've developed a theory regarding his personality. I've observed that Mr. Obama has many of the characteristics of a boy and then a young man who developed without the influence of a strong male parent.
The young men I've observed similar personality and social traits in are my oldest son's age, around 25.
But for the first time I see the traits in an older man, Mr. Obama. I'm sure he's not alone. He's just more noticeable and infinitely fascinating as the "first" of his kind.
His audacity, his self-assurance, the aura he projects that he is the ultimate authority, is unsettling to older people, because Mr. Obama, as presidents go, is young, and racially unique (so far).
I think that his Grandfather was probably in awe of, and maybe a bit put off by, his bi-racial grandson. I believe that as a child, Mr. Obama was likely the be all and end all of his family's- his maternal grandparents and his mother's- lives. I surmise that based on his mother's life choices, she was either a young woman rebelling against her white, American, middle class parents, or a golden-only-daughter who could do no wrong and who was encouraged to follow her whims, no matter where or to whom they led.
How many white, middle class women of her generation headed off into the world, first marrying an African man and then marrying an Asian man and living abroad?
These young men, and even the men who are my age, as Obama nearly is, are a new breed regarding their self-assurance and what is perceived as their arrogance by older people, and/or by people who grew up in a traditional family with a strong father figure.
As President, Mr. Obama should be tenacious and self-assured. He is the ultimate leader, and should be the ultimate authority, the ultimate "It" guy, as I believe he was the "It" child among his family.
Now finding himself as a father to daughters in a traditional family, it will behoove Mr. Obama to teach tradition and decorum to his delightful daughters. Instead of reasoning,"I am the President and as such, I deserve to return home (Chicago) for Memorial Day weekend," he should think,"I am the President. By the dictates of honor and tradition, and to show that I respect the citizens who have given their lives and the lives of their loved ones for our Country and for the defense of its ideals worldwide, I and my family belong in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day."
Along with a strong father to thank, I believe I have my hometown of Bay Shore, NY, to thank for my feelings that tradition is important, that being reverent and observant are important, especially on Memorial Day.
As a Girl Scout, for many years of sweaty but affectionately remembered Memorial Days, I and many of Bay Shore's other residents; Scouts, Veterans, Firemen, Law Enforcement officials, etc., marched proudly and reverently in a miles-long Memorial Day parade that assembled at the town's train station and continued many miles to a local cemetery.
Once at the cemetery, the multitude of marchers remained at silent attention as words and prayers were offered for the fallen, and a wreathe was laid at the town's war memorial.
Later, in my children's hometown of East Hampton, NY, a similar tradition was upheld each Memorial Day. As Scouts, my three oldest kids joined other town-folk; veterans, politicians, marching band high-schoolers, firemen, law enforcement, etc., in a march from Guild Hall on Main Street down to the war memorial at the windmill where Main Street forks off from North Main Street. Again, participants from 5-year-old brownie Girl Scouts to 80-year-old war Veterans stood at silent and reverent attention as words and prayers were offered and wreathes were placed for the dead.
During both events, and over those many years, I observed participants actually fainting, rather than break the attentive silence of the remembrance ceremony.
Both events stirred pride within me that I could feel welling up along the parade routes to the climax of the placing of the wreathes. I wish that every child will experience and feel such pride and love as a member of a community and as a citizen of this Country.
I hope that these parades continue, teaching children that Memorial Day is not all hot dogs and cook outs, but that it's a solemn day to show gratitude to all who have died for our Country and for freedom.
Another beloved memory is the red paper memorial poppy that Veteran's groups offer for donations. My dad always kept a poppy wired to his car's review mirror, or at the feet of the statue of St.Joseph on his dresser. The poppy became a symbol of the fallen as many of France's World War battle fields were first and post-war poppy fields.
Whether you and yours march in a parade, observe a parade, pick up a paper poppy from a Veteran, lay flowers at the grave or a memorial to the fallen, or simply plant a garden or pot of red, white and blue flowers, start or maintain a tradition of remembrance and reverence this Memorial Day.
God Bless all Americans.
Be well & happy!
If MY memory serves, it's time to wish a "Happy Birthday" to my dear, patient, tolerant, S.O.
I love ya, honey! No matter how old you get, I'll be older, and therefore, superior! Keep that boyish charm coming, and everything will be cool!

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