I wonder how many people in my generation of Millenials, known for its intense apathy, typed “Memorial Day” into Google to see what it was or to see if it was a holiday where you’re supposed to wear red, white, and blue to the barbecue. As I sat down to write something for Memorial Day, I realized, I don’t actually have anyone I know personally who fought and died for this country. I have two grandfathers, still living, who are veterans, but no one who lost their life in battle.
Thinking about this made me wonder if the majority of young Americans who are apathetic to Memorial Day live that way because they have no loved ones overseas to look to. People my age grew up with freedom. We don’t know any different, other than stories we hear, history books we read, and movies we watch. So, if they don’t know someone who is fighting personally, its not personal, to them.
I can remember reading about wars in high school and just feeling so detached from it all. Everything I learned in a book was a bit abstract, and I’m afraid that a lot of people my age are still living that way.
Even though, I won’t be honoring a specific person this Memorial Day, I have grown up, opened my eyes, and realized that my freedom isn’t free. This progression in my life happened because as people I knew started joining the Navy, and I started watching the news and learning, I realized that the world is bigger than I thought it was.
We are getting less free because people my age don’t care about freedom. To them, freedom is a word on a page. They’ve never died for something. They’ve never seen family members executed for their faith.
We 20-somethings are largely a group of spoiled brats. And, I can say that because I’m in that category. I think its no coincidence that my peers in their mid-20s who take Memorial Day seriously are those who have lost brothers and fathers and sisters overseas.
Looking at someone and saying “Your freedom cost people their lives,” doesn’t mean anything to a person who is self-consumed and who rarely (if ever) thinks about the homeless man on the corner, or the hungry 2-year-old in Africa, or the women and children in Syria, living in oppression.
I think there are two things at work here. First off, we’re desensitized. We’ve got the internet. We’ve heard it all. Seen it all. Done it all. All this information overload is breeding emotionlessness. Secondly, we’re uneducated. That’s the biggest thing. People don’t care because they don’t know. Hearing the words, “People are giving their lives for your freedom,” is different than hearing about a specific soldier – seeing his name, his wife, his smile, his laugh, his kids that he left behind.
The reason I’ve tied the internet into this argument, is because we’ve reached the point, technologically, where everything we watch is something we decide to watch. Most of us get our shows from Netlfix or Hulu or On Demand. We don’t sit through commercials anymore because we don’t have to. Even reading the news, you open up your favorite news site on your browser and click on what interests you. If you don’t want to read it, you don’t. Back in the old days, there was one channel. One show. Everyone sat through the same ads and news stories…at least, that’s what I’ve been told.
I can’t think of any solution other than for all of us to make it a priority that we educate the people in our lives – specifically the young-ins like me, who would rather Instagram their Memorial Day watermelon slab than listen to Grandpa’s war stories. We need to tell our kids stories. We need to monitor what they are watching and clicking on, and we need to teach them about history.
We’ve grown way too comfortable with our freedoms. Not only are we losing them, but the brave soldiers who continue to fight for our liberty aren’t being honored the way they should. To people my age, “Memorial Day” is more like “National Youth Barbecue Day.” These soldiers, in service, leave their comforts – their families, their beds, their futures – to do something bigger than themselves. They are willingly living a life of service and sacrifice so that their parents and spouses and kids can sit around the grill and eat, and laugh, and pray, and run through the sprinklers.
We are so, so blessed. Let us not forget the price of this amazing gift. Keep our soldiers in your prayers this week, and every week after that, and listen to your grandpa’s war stories, for a change.