Disproportion

About a third of a million men died on the Union side of the War of the Rebellion.

Consequently, I got to sleep late yesterday.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I needed the sleep and I’m deeply grateful for it. Still there seems to be a disconnect between the two basic purposes of our system of public holidays: commemorating important events, people, and values on the one hand and providing an occasional break from the rhythm of the work-week on the other.

My media consumption has been somewhat limited by travel this weekend, but though I’ve seen references to veterans generically I’ve seen none to the Civil War dead specifically, despite the fact that Memorial Day (nee Decoration Day) was originally dedicated to decorating Union graves.

Other than the proposal that we observe the holiday on its proper date rather than on the nearest Monday (which would work for Washington’s Birthday but not Memorial Day or Labor Day) and that we restore the original names of Washington’s Birthday and Decoration Day and Armistice Day, I don’t have any idea what to do about this, except to lament it.

And to ask that you take a minute, right now, to think about what it took to keep the Republic together and what you can do to defend it from its current internal enemies, whose ideas aren’t really that far from those of the last set, except that this time some of the plutocrats have foolishly decided to line up with the racists against “the last, best hope of Earth.”

Footnote If you think the last line is unfair, ask yourself which candidate Jefferson Davis would vote for this year, and which candidate Abraham Lincoln would vote for.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.