This Memorial Day feels different during this time of pandemic. Usually we honor our military, especially those who have died. Now, however, we seem to be expanding our thoughts about sacrifice and service. In my neighborhood, I see handmade signs on trash bins thanking sanitation workers for their service, signs near mailboxes thanking postal delivery people. We now hear grocery workers being mentioned as being “on the front lines,” of medical workers who have died from COVID-19 exposure as the “fallen.” It seems that we may be reconsidering what work actually keeps us safe, what forgotten service also implies sacrifice and also deserves our praise.
None of this is to diminish sincerely held willingness to do military service. But why do we honor only those? But perhaps the most profound honor we could give to military heroes would be to stop sending them to endless wars, perhaps to die or perhaps to live the rest of their lives impaired by wounds seen or unseen. Perhaps the greatest honor we could give our military “fallen” would be to stop making so many of them.
Charles Underwood, Minneapolis
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I grew up in Appleton, Minn., a rather unique small town. In 1947, all of its streets were renamed in honor of fallen young men from Appleton. The street naming continued through the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars. Appleton is the only town in the country with all of its streets and avenues named after fallen residents.
As a child, my father signed my older sister and me up to be part of the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary. That meant that each year we marched in Appleton’s Memorial Day parade wearing a navy blue and gold satin cape and matching garrison cap. And we carried lilacs.
Once the parade arrived at the town park, we marched out onto the small bridge and tossed our lilacs into the river as someone played taps. Then we boarded a bus to the cemetery.
There, each girl lined up behind a cross identifying one of the wars that took the life of a young Appleton man. As the speaker identified a war, that girl would step to the front and hang a wreath of flowers over the cross as someone read the name or names of those lost in that war.
It was something that had an impact on me as a child — the names were often the family names of my friends.
Understanding sacrifice has a lasting impact. And the smell of lilacs brings me back to those Memorial Days every year.
Anne McGarry, Minneapolis
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My father was a World War II veteran and was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He bore those wounds for life. This Memorial Day we remember the countless sacrifices that our veterans have made and those who have given their lives in defense of liberty.
But this is also a time to consider the responsibility each of us shares as a citizen to preserve and protect our liberty, our freedom and our representative form of government. Threats to our democracy do not always come in a military form. A case in point is the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision. It opened the door to unlimited contributions to election campaigns. This decision undermined the foundation of representative government. The court made a mistake resulting in serious unintended consequences. We the people now need to act.
When anonymous and unlimited amounts of money are tactically spent, elections become simple exercises in expenditures and marketing. Every person, every small business, every elected official is effectively shut out of the process. Money doesn’t just talk, it shouts and bullies.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board reported that $61 million was spent on Minnesota state campaigns in 2018, with most coming from a small number of donors and from outside the state. That level of expenditure was a nearly 80% increase over 2014 state campaign expenditures. Robert Moilanen, the chair of the board, put it best in the Star Tribune last fall: “Simply put, too few are wielding too much influence.”
This Memorial Day, it’s our duty to step up and support a 28th Amendment with common-sense provisions for campaign finance reform. Once and for all, we need to end the anti-American effects of Citizens United. The Constitution needs all the defenders it can muster. You can do something. For information on how to help this effort, please visit www.americanpromise.net.
Nick Gorski, Stillwater
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Sudden death lurks among us, sharpening our vision about what really matters. We demand that our legislators act to protect our loved ones according to our best science — not caving to talking points geared to wishful thinking. Will the coming special session stand out as Minnesota cares, or Minnesota kills?
As our state legislators debate where to focus our resources, let’s all remember that federal support for essential state and local needs has been shifted to wasteful Pentagon spending. Our country has stockpiled more than enough bombs to annihilate the world, but not enough virus-shielding gear to keep our health care providers alive. The U.S. has spent or obligated $6.4 trillion on wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq, but we don’t have enough basic materials to test for a killer virus.
Let’s take a collective deep breath and realize: We need to shift from a culture of war to a culture of care. We demand that our legislators act to protect Minnesota lives with today’s 2020 vision. We have more than enough; we need to prioritize care.
Amy Blumenshine, Minneapolis
There is divinity in caring for others
Not all Christians are eager to resist recommendations for gathering in worship. Some of us are more eager to limit the possibility of infection, particularly for those who are most vulnerable.
My own church will not gather in worship for the foreseeable future, and I think this is the most faithful response to this pandemic. Many of us believe that giving up some of our treasured practices for a time, even a long time, demonstrates deep love for the neighbor.
God has never been limited to a building or even to a particular faith community. In fact, God may have kicked us out of the building so that we see service of neighbor, care for the sick and support of the lost as the sacrament that we need to practice right now. Not all of us think that our rights or even our own needs are the first priority. Some of us are too busy following where God is leading us.
And, for us, it’s a gospel commitment to be strategically compassionate, boldly careful and unflinchingly hopeful.
Bradley Schmeling, St. Paul
The writer is senior pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
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I do not believe in praying to God in heaven to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, nor do I believe I need to rejoin my Quaker meeting anytime soon to endanger either myself or others. Deus ex machina will not happen: God will not descend in the final act to save the scene. COVID-19 is not God’s curse, nor the devil’s. It is a curse of the human condition that we, individually and collectively, must confront. I feel no more comfortable asking God to save some/me and leave others to die alone in this crisis, nor otherwise to suffer the torments of some of my fellow Americans.
When I was young, the nuns taught me that free will gave us choices, between good and evil, between productive and destructive. My Quaker faith says that there is that of God in each of us, much as scripture says (Psalm 82:6, John 10:34-36). I pray and meditate each day — seeking that of God within me for the right path to take, especially in this time of crisis, based upon my spiritual values. I am compelled to discern which of the many options to take, and for the wisdom, strength and grace to carry what I choose forward.
As I believe there is God in each of us, my path is contingent on those outside of myself. For that reason I need to check my decisions with not only my fellow religionists, but also family, neighbors and citizens — of the U.S. and the world. And also to weigh in on their decisions and actions.
Joe Landsberger, St. Paul
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