Memorial Day

To those who’ve been so generous as to follow me, I apologize for being offline due to technical problems, as well as, quite frankly, having taken the holiday weekend COMPLETELY off, which I recommend for mental health reasons to anyone. In fact, I’ve been known to deliberately schedule blank spaces in my calendar and I’ve actually given clients directives to schedule blanks of “do nothing” time for themselves. If you’re over scheduled, try it.

But I have a soapbox issue about Memorial Day, which is that it was originally Decoration Day and this has been largely forgotten. We are currently celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The origin of Memorial Day (Decoration Day) was that Confederate widows & mothers who had lost husbands and sons were decorating their graves with flowers and looked at the graves of Union dead (most of the battles of the Civil War were fought in the seceded states) and had compassion for the fact that they were buried far from home and loved ones They decided to decorate the graves of their erstwhile enemies with flowers also. Thus, Memorial Day was initially a day of memory especially for those who had fallen in this incredibly bloody fratricidal war, where all the fallen were Americans, and also a day of reconciliation. It is inconceivable to us today, but one in ten men fell on the Union side, and one in four on the Confederate. To put this in perspective, out of approximately 3 million males in the Bay Area where I live, if you assume  one-third went to war, 100,000 would have fallen. That’s without counting the many who lost limbs. Imagine a war in which we lost 25,000 men PER YEAR. To use the Southern proportion it would be 250,000 total, or 62,500 annually. For a single region. Please God may we never again have such losses in our nation.

At a time in our national history when partisan rancor and hard-line political divisiveness are at their highest since the outbreak of the Civil War, it’s a good time to remember that Memorial Day is also about compassion for our enemies, and about national reconciliation and unity in the face of seemingly unhealable hurt. There are people alive today whose great-grandparents were slaves. There are some who, like myself, are descended on one side from slave owners and on the other side (according to family lore) from those who helped the underground railroad. It’s a good time for us to look at what we have in common, and how we can get along.


About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
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One Response to Memorial Day

  1. Gary Majourau says:

    I thank you for your lesson in history, however, you have neglected to include the individuals
    who have fallen protecting our beautiful country in more recent times. The casualties on D Day alone were horrific, and, I might add that because of these great hero’s protecting our soil, they quite possibly have made it possible for you to write this article. Yes, how easy it is to forget
    when these wars have not taken place in our country because of the brave brothers and sisters
    who went to war to protect our precious soil, it’s people and what the UNITED STATES stands
    for ! So, this is what Memorial Day means to me and my heart goes out to all those who have fallen, who are maimed, who have served, and to those brave brothers and sisters who con-
    tinue to serve. God Bless America !

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