Saturday, May 26, 2012

The revolutionary origins of Memorial Day and its political hi-jacking

A day celebrating Black liberation utilized for white supremacy

By Ben Becker

The way the Civil War became officially remembered — through Memorial Day celebrations— was based on the erasure of the Black veteran and the liberated slave. 

What we now know as Memorial Day began as "Decoration Day" in the immediate aftermath of U.S. Civil War. It was a tradition initiated by former slaves to celebrate emancipation and commemorate those who died for that cause. These days, Memorial Day is arranged as a day "without politics" — of a general patriotic celebration of all soldiers and veterans, regardless of the nature of the wars they participated in. This is the opposite of how the day emerged, with explicitly partisan motivations, to celebrate those who fought for justice and liberation.

The concept that the population must simply "remember the sacrifice" of U.S. service members, without a critical reflection on the wars themselves, did not emerge by accident. It came about in the Jim Crow period as the Northern and Southern ruling classes sought to reunite the country around apolitical mourning and blind patriotism. Reuniting on this basis required erasing the politically "divisive" issues of slavery and Black citizenship that had been at the heart of the struggles of the Civil War and Reconstruction.  

To truly honor Memorial Day means putting the politics back in. It means reviving the visions of emancipation and liberation that animated the first Decoration Days. It means celebrating those who have fought on the side of justice, while exposing the cruel manipulation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members who have been sent to fight and die in wars for conquest and empire.

Source: Party for Socialism and Liberation

Editor’s note: Remember folks, we give everyone a voice, even if they’re loud, shrill, and full of nonsense.  Unlike the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” we honor everyone’s right to free speech.

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