Complexities of Patriotism

George Will, Washington Post, May 27, 2001.


Decoration Day, as it was called when Americans still vividly remembered what it was they were supposed to be remembering, used to be May 30, no matter what, never mind the pleasures, commercial and recreational, of a three-day weekend. An upstate New York town with a militarily resonant name — Waterloo — began the tradition in 1866, and in 1868 May 30 was designated “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Walter Berns, who is 82 and grew up in Chicago, remembers Memorial Day (as it was renamed after World War I) parades up Michigan Avenue still featuring a few Civil War .