The three-day weekend seems to be the new American tradition and my daughter and I have very special plans. Unfortunately, the tradition seems to be accompanied by a new one that calls for lots of social media shaming for not showing enough respect to American soldiers we should be remembering. While the desire to remember veterans on Memorial Day is good, public shaming on social media is a very shallow way to do it and misses a very important point about freedom.
As I’ve discussed, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the continued efforts in the War on Terror increasingly fall on a minority of people and families. Unlike the immediate aftermath of the mass draft in World War II and Vietnam, according to sources, less than one percent of Americans currently serve in the military. This relatively heavy burden on a relatively small population means that many Americans want to honor service men and women, but don’t know how. This disconnect often forces people beyond praise into uncritical hero worship. Combined with a culture that often involves hi-tech lynchings, venting rants, and skewed realities based on social media, this sometimes leads to people policing and shaming others for their apparent disrespect for the military.
A true respect and value for the military would mean a person researches and works hard to ensure service men and women are properly trained, equipped, and deployed across the world. This true respect requires a good deal of reading, research and thought, but very little social media use. Facebook posts shaming others for barbecuing on Memorial Day is a shallow and frankly pathetic attempt to honor the troops. It’s the same kind of slacktivism that tries to fight terrorism by putting a French flag filter on your Instagram profile, or trying to save kidnapped women by tweeting a hast tag.
More important than how somebody honors the troops is having an appreciation of the fundamental freedom for which the military fights. America is so amazing that it even grants the freedom to its citizens to burn its flag. That freedom also includes not honoring veterans on Memorial Day Weekend. That is not particularly grateful behavior, but true freedom doesn’t force people into honoring it or the soldiers that sacrificed for it.
With the holiday weekend arriving, I would remind those tempted to shame others on social media for not showing sufficient respect, that barbecuing and enjoying the holiday with family is a perfectly acceptable way to use the freedom for which so many fought. So feel free to celebrate the holiday weekend however you would like. Personally, I enjoy the free hot dogs and soda at the local furniture store. I hope your celebration includes remembering the fallen servicemen and women, but I hope even more that you take the time to appreciate the freedom they fought for…by spending time with your family in peace.