Facebook users are all probably familiar with this popular meme, which reads “Memorial Day, in case you thought it was National BBQ Day,” (Or some variation thereof.)
This Memorial Day meme has been popping up across social media and spreading like wildfire this year, and it is (I suspect) part of a larger sanctimonious trend on sharing sites. Before, it wasn’t really considered polite to be so rudely critical of a person’s individual regard of Memorial Day, or how they celebrate it.
That’s one of the many reasons I’d like to see this “in case you thought it was National BBQ Day” image disappear off Facebook, and there are a few more. Which I will list. ( Below, by far, the most shared Memorial Day is not National Barbeque Day” meme.)
This kid has a mother. Statistically, you are not that boy’s mother.
Alternately, the woman in the picture above is not you. We’re witnessing the worst moment in two very difficult times of two peoples’ lives, just in these two iterations here… and we have no idea how the people being used for a meme in their darkest hour feel about being plastered across Facebook. Being used. To make a point.
I’m not this boy’s mother either, so I can’t say whether or not she appreciates this sentiment. But as a mother myself, I’d be livid if my child’s worst day was converted to a Facebook meme… to what? To make people feel bad for not being American enough?
The Memorial Day grief of military families of the fallen is their business. It’s not the business of others to go tell people to have a sad time on a day meant to remember the men and women who died.
That’s another reason I dislike this meme, because…
Americans, or humans for that matter, are incredibly skilled at mingling grief and celebration. It’s part of how we cope.
Yes, Memorial Day isn’t National Barbeque Day. But if you feel so strongly about this particular issue, I hope you’re out there telling the Boy and Girl Scouts who woke early to march in a parade (which is generally upbeat) that they should be ashamed of themselves for such a display.
More than that though, in my relatively short life, the grief I’ve experienced has always been interspersed with levity and fond remembrance. As a Long Islander, I’ve lived through tremendous losses and horrible disasters.
In my village alone, we lost more than a dozen people on that day in 2001 — half of whom were under the age of 40. Eleven years later, Hurricane Sandy decimated my hometown, and half the homes by the water remain unoccupied. In fact, one image of the aftermath in my village went viral on social sites after Sandy, just a snapshot of what life was like here in the weeks and months after the devastation:
You know what everyone did while that was going on? They coped, and they rebuilt (and continue to do so) and they threw parties to raise money. Because having a good time while reflecting on what you’ve lost is not a sin. There is no shame in gathering friends and family for a barbeque on a day earmarked to remember. Also…
Most of us have not directly experienced the horror of losing a loved one in combat.
Grief tourism is an unfortunate side effect of the internet, and I wouldn’t class this image as such precisely.
However, there’s a thing with using tragedy to impress a point. A cheap shot at Memorial Day celebrations serves no one because it doesn’t do any work to actually help or honor veterans or fallen soldiers.
… at its worst, because it seeks to provoke guilt while actually doing nothing. If you feel so strongly about Memorial Day not being National Barbecue Day, then ask a veteran about their service.
Thank a veteran for their service. Thank every veteran you spot, friend or not yet acquainted, for their sacrifices and work. (Our government sure as hell isn’t doing anything close to it.)
Reach out to the wives and partners of deployed troops. As much as you can. See if they need help with their kids or a ride to the doctor or just someone to spend an evening with them during long worrisome nights.
Fight for veteran’s benefits. Do all in your power to make sure the elected officials who represent you do a good job of serving the men and women in uniform who serve the entire nation. Never cast a vote for someone who has reduced aid to veterans in the form of healthcare, SNAP, or other necessary things. Remember that these men and women not only sacrificed time and service, but also the time they’d be back home, working toward the American dream — the least we can do is clear their path to it when they come home so we never see homeless vets.
Never forget that the rate of suicide and other post-traumatic stress related experience is very, very high among returning troops.
In fact, instead of sharing the Memorial Day is not National BBQ Day meme, try sharing an article about how vets need our help when they come home — not just today, but always. That would truly serve the men and women who served us.