The hot dogs have been eaten, the hamburgers burnt. Tents taken down and washed, paper plates returned to the cupboard. Our nation has dutifully spent its one minute of silence honoring those who gave all for this nation, and we return to our regular lives.
This post isn’t going where you think it is.
Dia de muertos – Day of the Dead – is a holiday celebrated in Mexico (and spread across the world), with origins in Aztec civilization, so says the ever-believable (but I sarcast [which is totally a verb – I just made it one]) Wikipedia. Of course, the idea of celebrating the departed is not an Aztecian original. See this helpful list, or simply consider the ancestor worship practiced in the east, or even the practice of visiting the grave of a departed family member. Or consider the most-recently-concluded holiday, conveniently named Memorial Day.
The point is, most cultures (all?) have some tradition of honoring or remembering their dearly departed.
The process of grieving for the departed is different – it is a response to what is (hopefully) a recent event, and it is the subject of a subset of psychology. It is, perhaps, the immediate response to loss, whereas the memorial celebrations are the long-tail release of the reaction spike of grief. They are two related, and common, reactions to loss.
Generally, we expect the grieving period to occur, last a short time, and give way to the memorial period. We grieve briefly, then remember, and honor the memories — without the grieving part — for a long time thereafter.
That is how it is supposed to work. Sometimes a person, for whatever reason, gets stuck in the grief. That’s where the psychology comes into play.
Now, what does that have to do with the most recent holiday, and how is that politically incorrect?
For the last week, my News Feed on Facebook has been full of admonishments to properly honor our veterans. They are heart-tugging, thought-provoking, and I refuse to link them here. Regardless of the motivations of the various people who dutifully posted, copied, shared, and reblogged the images, the result was to guilt-shame anyone who dared to consider celebrating the holiday with a bit of relaxation and fun.
How dare you enjoy cooking out, when so many people died to preserve your right to do so? And there-in lies a dichotomy, which I think needs addressed.
Consider the various Holidays:
Valentine’s Day: How dare you celebrate a holiday which promotes the evil male patriarchy?
Easter: How dare you try to mention anything remotely Christian in polite company? Besides, it’s all about a rabbit.
(or) How dare you celebrate by hiding eggs, when the entire Holiday is about what Jesus Did For Us?
Memorial Day: How dare you celebrate and cook burgers (adding carbon to the air) and drink beer, when so many soldiers (sons, fathers, brothers) died on foreign soil?
Independence Day: What are you thinking? This marked the beginning of the evil United States of America (or, how dare you cook out and play games when you should be sombering at the thought of all those who gave their lives for freedom). And don’t set off fireworks – they’re dangerous.
Labor Day: Cook out? This day should be marked and celebrated to honor the victory of the common worker over evil Capitalists.
Halloween: Don’t you dare make light of the totally legitimate pagan religionists. And don’t say “ists.”
Thanksgiving: No celebration. Instead, spend every day thinking of something you are thankful for. Alternatively, complain bitterly about how the Pilgrims treated the noble savages.
Christmas: Don’t even go there. And it was totally stolen from the druids anyway. Even though the date was set long before anyone knew what a Druid was.
So, given all of the above, I have one question.
When the hell are we supposed to celebrate?
What I am wondering, and I apologize for taking this long to get to my point (no I don’t, actually, apologize for it. Deal with it), is whether all those admonishments to forego our celebrations for somber memorials, aren’t simply a mild form of psychopathy. Remember, we grieve for a season, but we honor forever.
“Right! Right!” you say. “That’s what I mean.”
No, that’s not what you mean. “It’s about this (the dead), not this (the cookout)” has been all over my news feed. And it’s wrong. It’s about both – It’s about honoring those who died, specifically so that we could celebrate, cook out, drink beer, and just generally enjoy the heck out of life. Ask them (if you have a medium handy) — they’ll likely say “Knock it off with the sombering – go have fun – that’s why I gave my life!”
I don’t mean to discard the ultimate sacrifice given by so many. But I note that they did so to protect Liberty – and among many aspects thereof, these two (aspects of Liberty) spring to mind:
- As mentioned, the Liberty to cook out, eat whatever I want, drink a beer, and enjoy life (try that in many Middle Eastern countries)
- The right, and the privilege, to speak freely to anyone who wants to try to persuade me to forego the above, by posting guilt-shaming pictures to try to make it seem to me (and all my friends) that I’m a bad person if I cook a hot dog.
And so, given the above, my response to all those who have posted the pictures and screeds and posts and tweets:
Go cry in your own pillow. I’m going to celebrate the heck out of every Holiday that comes around. I’m going to cook hot dogs, drink beer, camp out, and just generally enjoy life. I will honor the memory of those who have gone before, but I refuse to curb my own desire to life life fully, and abundantly.