Memorial Day: A Day of [Truthful] Reflection

 

I found the following article via a friend of mine’s Facebook page, and I just wanted to share the information:

Memorial Day got its start after the Civil War, when freed slaves and abolitionists gathered in Charleston, S.C., to honor Union soldiers who gave their lives to battle slavery. The holiday was so closely associated with the Union side, and with the fight for emancipation, that Southern states quickly established their own rival Confederate Memorial Day.

Over the next 50 years, though, Memorial Day changed. It became a tribute to the dead on both sides, and to the reunion of the North and the South after the war. This new holiday was more inclusive, and more useful to a forward-looking nation eager to put its differences behind it. But something important was lost: the recognition that the Civil War had been a moral battle to free black Americans from slavery.

In “Race and Reunion,” his masterful book about historical memory, David Blight, a professor at Yale, tells the wistful story of Memorial Day’s transformation — and what has been lost as a result. War commemorations, he makes clear, do not just pay tribute to the war dead. They also reflect a nation’s understanding of particular wars, and they are edited for political reasons. Memorial Day is a day not only of remembering, but also of selective forgetting — a point to keep in mind as the Iraq war moves uneasily into the history books.

Feel free to read the rest at The New York Times.

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