It’s Memorial Day.
I hadn’t planned on writing today, or about this topic, but then a thought struck me this morning and suddenly I would feel selfish if I didn’t take the time to do so.
What is Memorial Day? What is it really about?
For starters, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War, and the Civil War was fought primarily over slavery, states’ rights, and westward expansion. One of the earliest recorded Memorial Day celebrations was held by freed slaves.
According to one History Scholar:
“If you are looking for one word which speaks to the Civil War, what it comes to mean to everybody, I think it’s ‘freedom’.”
– Ira Berlin (Professor of History, University of Maryland)
That word is the reason I felt the urgent need to write today.
Nearly 3,000 people were murdered in the 9/11 attacks in New York. According to the CDC, as of May 22nd, 73,639 people have died from the current COVID-19 pandemic, causing our entire global system to shutdown.
Not to diminish these numbers, but let’s contrast them with numbers from the Civil War:
- An estimated 620,000 lost their lives (some estimate as high as 850,000).
- This means roughly 2% of the population died, which as a percentage of today’s population would equate to ~6 million deaths.
- There were an estimated 1.5 million “casualties”, which is defined as those who were killed, missing, or wounded.
- This means roughly 5+% of the population were killed, missing, or wounded; which as a percentage of today’s population would equate to ~15+ million casualties.
The Civil War was (by far) the costliest and deadliest war ever fought on American soil. Over Freedom.
This begs the questions:
- Why did so many fight against freedom??
- Doesn’t everyone want freedom??
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be so black and white. The landscape of our world today is evidence that, in many cases, people want freedom for themselves but not for others. In other cases it simply isn’t so black and white. Many in power abuse their power to suppress individual freedoms, frequently offering “concessions” as a means of convincing the people to willingly give up freedoms. Political causes are often used to create more liberties for a select few while trampling the freedoms of others.
The COVID pandemic is a golden example of how forgotten freedom is today. Governments around the world have implemented shutdowns to try to force people to stay at home as much as possible, even though it is legally unsustainable – at least in the United States – to do so. Due to the pandemic, many don’t feel comfortable going outside of their home. Some will go outside only with protective facemasks. And it seems for so many, it simply isn’t enough for them to feel whatever safety and security they receive from choosing to stay at home or wear a facemask; they must also try to force or shame others into doing the same things they do.
My Church teaches that life existed before earth which we often call the “pre-existence”. In the pre-existence, Satan was not always considered evil. The Bible confirms this, where Satan is called “Lucifer, son of the morning”, and his fall from grace is lamented.
Why did Lucifer fall from grace?
We believe there was a War in Heaven in the pre-existence over how the plan of salvation would be administered to the forthcoming human family on earth. Jesus’ plan offered us agency, the ability to make right and wrong choices out of our own free will. Lucifer – knowing that with agency some would fall short of complete salvation – wanted salvation to come automatically to everybody. We believe 1/3rd of those in the pre-existence – a considerable number – elected Lucifer’s plan.
In pondering this pre-earth war, the contrast between good (Jesus) and evil (Satan) is always striking to me. Satan wasn’t “evil” in the way I traditionally think of the word… he wanted us all to have salvation, and both plans provided for that.
But what was the key point of conflict? “Agency”, a fancy word for “Freedom”.
Jesus’ plan acknowledged that without personal freedom, without us being able to choose certain things according to our own will, it would defeat the entire purpose of the plan; for our personal growth in mind, heart, and spirit would never be complete without us exerting our own will to that end.
So it is that many in positions of power work to limit freedoms of their constituents, or force them into certain things; and many of “we the people” become willing or complicit, even at the cost of individual freedom; while others, I fear, simply do not lift freedom up to the high regard it deserves.
How important, then, is it that we who believe in freedom stand up to those who fight against it?
Notice I did not say we should “fight for freedom”; I said we should “stand up to those who fight against it”. There is a subtle difference.
Yes, we must be active in spreading freedom, but we must also believe in it as much for others as we do for ourselves. We must recognize the freedoms of all, especially those we disagree with, and defend their freedoms to believe and act according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we defend our own.
With that in mind, you would never invade your neighbor’s home, that would be a crime. No, we must be neighborly, have barbecues, do friendly things with each other, and we must spread freedom by preaching its virtues and allowing others its benefits.
Still, there may always come a time where those who fight against freedom become too vicious and forceful in trampling the freedoms of others. As COVID has illustrated, some may be easily swayed or forced to give up personal freedoms in exchange for other concessions. But there are more who are willing to fight for freedom – as much for the freedoms of others as for ourselves – and are even willing to die for it. If someone invades our home, naturally we will stand up to the invader, defend our family and home, even to death if needs be.
The Civil War is proof that this nation, the United States of America, has the most freedom loving people in the world. It was true then, it is still true today.
So today, this Memorial Day, I am so grateful for all who have stood up for freedom, in past and present day. As far as I’m concerned, it is those very actions – the willingness to stand up for freedom, even if it means laying down your life – that define this wonderful country.
I pray your spirit and sacrifice will be honored by all… but especially by the freedom lovers of today. Let us band together to stand up for freedom, against tyranny, with love and respect for the freedoms of others, but also with a boldness and zeal that honors those who fought before us.
To those who fight against freedom: you will never succeed.
To all those who have served and stood up for freedom: