This country has a funny tendency to only remember important days once a year. Last week, you couldn’t turn around without bumping into someone talking about Veterans Day. The populace was ablaze with patriotism, and everything seemed in order.
Yet, that mood fades quickly. Every year, the country gets excited about honoring our service members but then returns to casting them aside when it’s time to help.
This isn’t only a Veterans Day issue. It happens on Memorial Day, too. On Mother’s Day, we take time to give mom breakfast in bed or send a card but then spend the rest of the year complaining about her cooking or the curfew she used to enforce. People buy candy and flowers for their sweetheart on Valentine’s Day but don’t offer any romance again until the next commercial holiday.
It’s an interesting habit we have as a country. We love celebrating people, places, things and events, but we only like doing it for 24 hours at a time. We like observing, not actually honoring.
It’s most noticeable on days that don’t appear on the calendar. Every year, 9/11 becomes a little less important to the country at large. Unless you have a personal connection to what happened nine Septembers ago, you probably didn’t observe the day beyond adorning your Facebook with the obligatory status.
As we approach the 10-year anniversary, perhaps reflection is needed.
Why is it we don’t spend more of the year thinking about important events? It’s almost like we celebrate holidays like they’re fads or social trends. We want people to think we’re hip because we know Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, even though Armistice Day was a much better name.
Maybe it’s because our attention spans are dwindling. Or maybe it’s because America is naturally populated by individualistic people. It’s hard to say.
Regardless of the reasons, it’s wrong. How many Americans celebrated the Fourth of July compared to the number of Americans who voted two weeks ago? Probably far more.
We bask in the celebration but don’t follow through with what the day stands for.
On Thanksgiving, we all reflect on how lucky we are, but the next day, many of us are complaining about long lines and the pressures of the holiday season.
We need to live the values we claim to hold. Thanking veterans on Nov. 11 and then failing to honor them on Nov. 12 is, at the very least, disingenuous. You shouldn’t celebrate a holiday if it doesn’t really mean something to you.
This isn’t a call to put away the decorations; it’s a call to actually mean what you say.
If we thank veterans on Nov. 11, we should make a donation to a veteran’s charity a couple of times throughout the year.
If we barbeque on the Fourth of July, we should vote and participate in the political process. If we eat turkey on Thanksgiving, we should spend a little less time feeling sorry for ourselves and realize most of us are really very lucky.
Of all of our national idiosyncrasies, this one might be the strangest. But then again, maybe this isn’t just an American phenomenon. Maybe it’s a generational one. Perhaps, we’re losing a connection with the past because the present is so busy and chaotic. Maybe if we had a little less going on, we’d have more time to reflect.
It’s certainly worth trying. We should all put down the technology and pick up a book or strike up a conversation. We could all learn something valuable about the history we celebrate with fireworks and home-cooked meals.
As the holiday season approaches, give it a try. You might find yourself not missing the battery- powered device that’s usually glued to your ear, and you might also find you enjoy the holiday a little bit more.