On This Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, our day to honor the men and women who have died in service to our country, we have to ask ourselves what we have done as a nation to support and protect the democracy they died for.

Did they sacrifice their lives for a country that seems determined to tear itself apart at the seams? Did they die so that ordinary citizens could have the unrestricted “right” to commit mass murders using weapons designed for war?

Did they die to protect our basic freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or did they die so that anyone deranged enough, or racist enough, or just plain angry enough, could indiscriminately rob ordinary citizens – even children – of those essential rights?

Thom Tillis seems to agree with the latter. In his statement after the Uvalde murders, he said, “The question is, can we actually get to policy that can make a difference but not deny people their Second Amendment rights and give them due process?”

Sorry to burst your bubble, Senator, but that’s not the way it works. In a democracy, your individual rights are always tempered by the public good.

The seams that stitch a democracy together are simple, but oh how fragile they are when yanked by subversives, autocrats or fools. The fabric of any functioning democracy is held together with basic respect for the common good. It depends on a shared respect for the facts, a shared acknowledgment of the reality of our common life. In America, that includes respect for the diversity of who we are as a people. And it includes respect for the institutions of government, balanced with respect for a free press and the people’s ability to hold elected officials accountable.

All of these are based, at heart, on a shared allegiance to our life in common. Those who promulgate subversion, division and lies are supporting a common life of alienation and violence. And those who, like Senator Tillis, simply go along with it all, expressing neither shame nor remorse, even when that culture of alienation and violence is out of control, are just as culpable.

On this Memorial Day, we pause and remember. And those of us who are committed to seeing that the great American experiment in democracy survives will pause and remember why this matters. In remembering, we pledge to recommit ourselves to seeing that democracy prevails.