Memorial Day holds a special place in my heart. When I was little, we had a huge flag that had lain over the coffin of a family member who had been in the military and we draped it over the bay window, pretty much covering half of the front of our small home.
Memorial Day meant our town parade - and it was a good one! In addition to the veterans and scout troops, we had the Clan MacPherson bagpipers. When you heard them coming, man, it just sent chills up your spine.
The parade always paused at the town common for a reading of "In Flanders Fields", which gave me goose bumps even as a little kid. Later in the day, we took geraniums to plant on the family graves. I always knew it was about more than the hot dogs - it was about remembering.
As I grew older, I came to better understand the full meaning of Memorial Day. I had always thought of it as a day when we remembered our loved ones who had died - meaning our own family. Later I understood the larger context of honoring those who served our country and died for freedom. Our common bond of sacrifice and loss.
I am a yoga teacher, and some folks in the world of yoga have at times expressed the sentiment that patriotism is not a very enlightened state - that it creates a sense of nationalism that can separate us from one another.This is because in yoga we recognize that we are all one, all from the same source, and that it is focusing on our differences or separateness that keeps us at odds with each other.
While I agree that if we can really see our oneness in each other's eyes, we can be more at peace with one another, I DON'T feel that loving my country and expressing that love and pride necessarily creates separateness. I think it is just fine to be proud of where you're from -wherever that is, and to celebrate it.
I am especially proud of Americans when I see how we respond to tragedies like the Sandy Hook shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings and the tornadoes in Oklahoma - with selfless bravery, kindness, compassion and generosity. Whenever people think that Americans are just fat, lazy, entitled and only interested in what Kim Kardasian is wearing or who wins American Idol, they are suddenly confronted with the faces of third grade teachers who threw their bodies over children to protect them, of First Responders AND private citizens who ran toward bomb victims instead of away, and of a little boy named Martin who held up a sign that read, "No More Hurting People."
Sometimes (often?) I don't like what the leadership of my country does, but I feel so fortunate to be free, to live in a land where it is not just okay, but expected, to say what I think. I feel this especially as a woman, as when I see how women are still so oppressed in so many countries - how the oppression of women is an integral part of the politics of many countries - it utterly breaks my heart.
So, I am proud to say Happy Memorial Day to us all - to all who live in freedom, wherever you live. And even as we say "Happy" Memorial Day, we recognize that the happiness we find in our freedom came from sacrifice, sorrow and loss. And today I send a prayer to all who do not live in freedom, that soon it will come to you too.