Thursday, May 29, 2008

Musings for Memorial Day

I was away in the mountains for my first time for this year's memorial day. I had a hard day reconciling going out and having fun on a day that I should have been remembering the veterans that have fallen protecting and serving our country. Many of you who know me personally, know that I am not extremely patriotic, but that my research deals with America and how we grieve. I am patriotic in the sense that I love everything the United States stands for, but I am not proud of of the current state of government (which to me, makes me even more patriotic).

On Memorial Day, one of my favorite radio shows, To The Point, dedicated their show to a critical look at how memorial day came about, what memorial day means and how that meaning is shaped due to the current war. It is a very moving, smart and fair look at what Memorial Day means for us, a public torn between political views on the Iraq war and the value of human life.

One of the commentators (from Shreveport, ironically), Michael Sledge, mentions that in America we have lost national grieving, that is public grieving. I disagree slightly, as I believe we miss regular, healthy, productive and active public grieving. As I discussed in my master's thesis, spontaneous shrines for example, are very public methods of grieving that respond to public tragedy by becoming an amalgamation of private meanings. Immediately after a tragedy, the public creates these metatexts, but often these sites and tragedies don't retain their monumentality long term. The solution I think, is to build memorials that can reflect current collective memory of tragedies and can be responsive to the public needs. Unfortunately, our typical methods of materializations don't foster healthy remembrance, much like how Memorial Day has become a day for barbeques, and in my case, escapism to the mountains.

I could probably go on and on about why dedicating days to the memory of public tragedies and public figures doesn't work, but for the sake of brevity, please listen to the Memorial Day edition of To The Point.

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