May 2016 Newsletter
Everywhere I go I am seeing Jacarandas. They bring back memories. This newsletter is about memories.
At the tender age of eleven I went away to boarding school. At this school there was a long driveway coming up to a traditional school building with many Jacaranda trees lining the road. In the springtime this place looked very much like the picture above.
Later, when I entered the workplace, I remember at almost exactly 4.30 p.m. clouds would come scudding across a watery sky, no warning. The lightning would strike, the thunder would clap and the skies would open up. It would happen almost exactly at 5.15 p.m.; we worked 9:00 - 5:00 p.m. At 5:15 p.m. we were leaving the building. By 6:00 p.m. there was a carpet of purple flowers on the sidewalk and up above us, blue skies again from horizon to horizon.
Much talk in America about the dangers of climate change; in Africa we took wild climate swings pretty much for granted.
These are good Jacaranda memories.
The History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day is when Americans remember those who have died in the service of our country. The origin of the tradition is somewhat hazy as over two dozen towns claim the grave-decorating tradition.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on the 30th day of May, 1868 by General John Logan. Its purpose was to encourage grieving Americans to honor the dead from the Civil War. Logan believe such heroes were lying in the quaint graveyards of almost every village or hamlet in America. Such men should be honored, for only then could the nation move forward.
A quainter story about the origin of Memorial Day has surfaced recently.
Apparently, as the civil war neared its end, thousands of Union soldiers were held as prisoners of war in the camps in the South. In one camp (a racetrack) conditions were so bad that more than 250 prisoners died from exposure and disease and were tossed into a mass grave behind the racetrack’s grandstand.
Three weeks after the Confederate surrender more than 1000 recently freed slaves, accompanied by U.S. colored troops, went to the race-track to open the mass grave and to honor and bury each body individually, turning the race-track into a cemetery. They sang hymns, gave readings and distributed flowers all around. If this story is true, this would have been the very first Memorial Day. (Brian Hicks bases his story on the research of Yale historian, David W. Blight.)
Hicks writes that the race-track was in fact converted into a cemetery built from the ground up by the African American volunteers. They added a wall around and created an arched entryway for visitors. Today there is no such cemetery in Charleston and, the rumor goes, the remains were desecrated once again and moved to a national cemetery in Georgia. This could be why this little piece of our national history has slipped away.
I never fail to be amazed at how (even today) there is such ire related to the Civil War. My neighbor to the right INSISTS on flying a Confederate Flag. A little way up the road to the left a sensitive man of color has been objecting. I don’t know this neighbor but I feel for him. Why perpetuate old disputes? They are still going at it and have recreated another little civil war in our little neck of the woods.
I truly love America and what I find the most wonderful about my adopted country is our constitutional heritage. We can disagree without descending into violence. That is what is given us by our system of government, our constitution.
This does not mean that from time to time our brave soldiers don’t need to war to stand up for and defend what is right. It is these brave people in our history that we honor on Memorial Day.
Spring is a time when things start again.
It is beautiful that such graves are filled with flowers.
Spring is a time of renewal.
Until next month!
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