In 1865, after the end of the civil war, was the beginning of the first national cemeteries in our country. Between 600,000 and 800,000 Union and Confederate troops were lost in the Civil War, more than any other conflict in US history. As a result of these horrific losses, communities honored fallen soldiers on both sides by decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers in the spring of 1865. The lingering pain of the civil war saw many communities celebrate ‘Day of the Holy Blood’. decoration ”from 1866.
History informs us that one of the first “Decorating Day” celebrations was hosted by a group of freed black slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, in the spring of 1865, shortly after the surrender of the Confederation. We know this from Harvard University archives uncovered in the 1990s and a book written by David Blight, professor of American history at Yale University.
Blight’s book Race and Reunion, published in 2001, tells the story of the former Charleston racetrack and country club that was demolished, moving a mass grave of Union soldiers from the graveyard to the race track in Beaufort National Cemetery. Newspaper articles from that time confirmed the story that the celebration of “Decoration Day” took place on the race track in 1865, at the site of a mass grave for fallen soldiers.
In 1966, the federal government declared the official birthplace of Memorial Day to be Waterloo, New York. Although “Decoration Day” originally honored only those who were lost in the Civil War, we know that modern “Remembrance Day” commemorates American military personnel who have died in all wars, including WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War. , The Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these people were blacks, Asian Americans, Spanish Americans and the majority of them were white descendants mostly from Europe.
How ironic that in 2021 we all witnessed an insurgency on our country’s Capitol on January 6. Our country’s Capitol had never been besieged since the War of 1812, not even during the Civil War. The numerous videos of the attack and the newspaper articles gave all Americans a glimpse of what happened before and that day in January.
The attack came from a large majority of white Republican individuals wearing MAGA red hats and some carrying Confederate flags storming the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from fulfilling its duty to certify the Electoral College votes for our new president, Joe Biden. The emotional crowd threatened the lives of members of Congress as well as Vice President Pence. These attempts failed because the police in the capital protecting the Capitol were not going to let this happen.
Sadly, real American patriots (members of the Capitol Police) died that day. That day, 67 Republican members of Congress (including Rep. Diana Harshbarger) voted against certification without having a single instance of voter fraud that had occurred. The attempt by lawmakers was to overthrow the will of the people and create a constitutional crisis that could have led to a civil war.
After over 60 court challenges have failed and each state of the Union Secretary of State (mostly Republicans) certified the election as true and correct in their respective states, we still have those who continue to promote the big lie. Failure to recognize propaganda as a way to disrupt our government by anyone puts everyone in danger of losing their freedom that a democracy protects.
Since then, we have learned that there was coordination and conspiracy between the various radical right-wing groups associated with the former president and the big lie he continues to promote. After more than four months, the FBI arrested more than 494 people charged with federal crimes in the insurgency and more will follow.
The FBI has identified seven different groups that remain a threat of violent domestic criminal terrorism within our country. Representative Liz Cheney from Wyoming, speaking about the big lie, said, “It is an ongoing threat and we cannot remain silent.”
Any attempt by a state legislature to prevent American citizens from voting or to criminalize giving water to an individual queuing to vote is an attempt to overthrow our constitutional government which is the very heart of our democracy. The very foundation of our democracy is that everyone has the right to vote. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, it’s your right to vote on polling day.
As we honor those who put their lives in danger to give their allegiance to our constitutional government and to protect everyone’s right to liberty in our country, we must recognize that many of those buried in our national cemeteries have been killed in action. They never had the right to live and enjoy life with their families until old age. Those who have had children have never been able to see them finish their studies, attend their wedding or see their grandchildren.
Those buried in our national cemeteries have given us their most precious gem, their lives to protect our lives and our constitutional government. Memorial Day is in honor of their service to all Americans and to our country. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that our democracy continues as it has done since our founding. Memorial Day is a time to pause, thank and honor those who provided the protection all Americans needed during a stressful time in our history as a democracy and protecting our freedoms.