Just after I'd done my last year's Memorial Day column (Memorial Day: Remember America's Dead—Including BOTH Sides In Civil War) an ex-convict and drug addict named George Floyd was arrested for passing a counterfeit bill. As the 6" 4' Floyd was restrained by the 5' 9" Derek Chauvin with a knee on his neck (a standard technique) Floyd, who may have swallowed his stash of the illegal drugs he was addicted to, started complaining that he couldn't breathe.
Chauvin dismissed this, for obvious reasons (a. prisoners always say this, and b. if Floyd actually couldn't breathe because of pressure on his neck, then he couldn't talk either) but Floyd subsequently actually died, probably of a fentanyl overdose.
Steve Sailer wrote recently:
George Floyd died on Memorial Day 2020.
Granted, George Floyd did not, technically, die fighting in the nation’s armed forces in some half-forgotten war. But, in a higher sense, did he not die fighting in the New America’s greatest and most long-running war: against racism, against white supremacy, against statistical disparities in racial performance, against hair-touching?
Then the New York Times, exactly as predicted, came out with an op-ed saying just that:
May 25 Should Be a Day of Mourning for George Floyd https://t.co/PEDtDFR8qg— Steve Sailer (@Steve_Sailer) May 23, 2021
Kevin would make the point, as a veteran himself, that Memorial Day is not the day to say to veterans "Thank you for your service" (that's Veterans Day) it's the day to remember the honored dead, who didn't live to be thanked [“Happy Memorial Day?” | WeaponsMan, May 30, 2016].
Last year I wrote that Memorial Day came into being after the Civil War, as "Decoration Day," a day for memorializing the honored dead, of whom there were a great many, by decorating their graves with flowers.
Because America remained divided, there were actually two Memorial Days celebrated—many parts of the South still proclaim "Confederate Memorial Day" on a different date. The women of Columbus, Mississippi famously decorated the graves of soldiers on both sides in April of 1866, giving rise to a celebrated poem by Francis Miles Finch:
No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.
There have been enough foreign wars since then that Northern and Southern bodies are found in military cemeteries in about equal measure. That North and South were fighting external enemies together was part of the Great Reconciliation that is described in Paul H. Buck's 1937 book, The Road To Reunion 1865–1900. (This book is now unpopular—and so is the actual post-Civil War reconciliation.)
So once again on Memorial Day, it's important to remember that both the people who thought they were dying to make men free and those who thought they were fighting for their liberty with treasure, blood, and toil were Americans. That also applies to the honored dead of more recent wars, however "divisive" they may have been.
But the New York Times is staffed by people who think George Floyd deserves a memorial day.
Previous Memorial Day Columns