As we wended our way to the neighborhood Starbuck’s this morning, a couple of neighbors wished us Happy Memorial Day, which on reflection struck us as odd because Memorial Day is an occasion of solemnity, not the cheerfulness that one associates with happiness. And as we were wondering how to express that thought, we came across Kenneth Anderson’s May 27th post on the Volokh Conspiracy, quoting a comment he received from someone on this very subject:
“I do not believe malice is intended, but do you not see a conflict with placing “Happy” within the phrase involving Memorial Day? It’s not a day of celebration (i.e. birthday, July 4), but of commemoration (Pearl Harbor, 9/11). You wouldn’t say happy funeral to someone, correct? This may be the result of a default to saying happy [random holiday] and to the association of parties/bbqs/days off/etc.
“It may sound awkward but “have a solemn Memorial Day” is my preference. Maybe just “Remember on Memorial Day” as a direct saying, feels more natural. A good time to remind people of wars, soldiers, and support services long forgotten or dismissed. That individuals must fight, and be ready at all times, for their way of life. Life isn’t a video game or movie where the good guys win in the end and with minimal casualties. We have been fortunate to be buffered by, not only a fantastic national defense, but by large bodies of water and limited or no threat both north and south. Our society is breeding generations of possibly complacent persons due to civilized advancement; threats however will never diminish. Must remember what it took to get to where we are and that next Memorial Day you might be recalling the life of someone near and dear. The future is unknowable, but it is securable.”