Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flag Day

Today is Flag Day. Do you have your Stars and Stripes flying?

Last week we had the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. I sat my daughter down in front of the TV so she could see some real American heroes. We lose more and more of the Greatest Generation every day and soon no one will be witness to the close-run thing that was the Invasion of Normandy. Fewer and fewer veterans return to France every year to commemorate the event. This year one of those who went died in his sleep. I guess ever since he stepped onto Omaha Beach he knew his destiny.

Anyway, I was somewhat disappointed by the coverage of the D-Day gathering. They showed the leaders of the Allied Nations, they showed some of the vets sitting in the folding chairs. A few words were spoken about the actual historical event. I want to believe that was because the networks expect the American public to remember what happened -- but the cynic in me thinks the new producers are too young to have any clue about the significance of D-Day and really wanted to make sure there was time to fit more Jon & Kate + Eight gossip into my nightly newscast.

I got to wondering why we don't have a June 6th D-Day holiday. Too close to Memorial Day? That's an interesting practical possibility. I'm certain you all know Memorial Day started as a remembrance of all the fallen in the US Civil War and grew into a commemoration of all those who died in service to our Nation. We wouldn't want a second National Holiday sitting so close to an existing one...

And besides, a D-Day holiday would inevitably be moved to the Monday nearest to June 6. Would it really make any sense to remember D-Day on any day other than the actual date?

I suppose the same is true of a 9/11 holiday. This has been suggested as Patriot's Day, and an ideal opportunity to remember the Firefighters and Police who risk themselves for their communities everyday. But, it's too close to Labor Day, which began as a New York City holiday to give a day off for ordinary working citizens. Again, we're faced with the fact that a federal holiday would be under pressure to move to an nearby Monday, and does it make sense to remember 9/11 on a day other than 9/11? Attempts to create any kind of federal 9/11 holiday have also raised the issue -- can the calendar really take another federal holiday? Don't federal workers get too many days off already?

Interestingly, the only "obscure" federal holiday that has not been turned into a long weekend is Veteran's Day (November 11). [I'm deliberately leaving out Independence Day.] This is because it was originally Armistice Day, and recalled that World War I (you might remember this as "The War to End All Wars") was called to a halt at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In its original incarnation, it makes good logical sense to continue to remember on the precise date of the original event. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to change the focus to all veterans. This is not, in itself, a bad idea. But it does make you wonder why it is the holiday that has resisted being appended to a weekend. I mean, we have no trouble celebrating Martin Luther King's and Christopher Columbus' birthdays on the closest available Monday.

So, to go back to D-Day's 65th Anniversary for moment, my daughter watched the TV for a few moments before asking, "Daddy, why are all those old guys on TV?" What do you tell a four year old about D-Day? It's not like I'm going to dig out Saving Private Ryan and show her. But someday I'll probably do just that. But what worries me is this...

We have federal holidays for a reason. A bigger reason than picnics and parades and long weekends. But I often wonder how many people take a moment to think about those reasons. I also wonder how we sorted out our national priorities to arrive at the set of holidays we have. I'm not saying I'm about to start a campaign for a D-Day holiday, but if D-Day isn't worth a holiday -- what is?

Those D-Day survivors... excuse me: veterans and witnesses, will soon be all gone. Who will remember the razor's edge moment of that June morning in their absence?

No comments: