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Susanna Speier Headshot

Memorial Day Politiku

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Different sources make different claims regarding the origin of Memorial Day. Southern hymns, Union Generals and United States Presidents all claim to have officiated the holiday that my great-grandmother from Omaha used to insist on referring to as, "Decoration Day." While I'm still not quite clear on whether "Decoration Day" was the predecessor to our contemporary "Memorial Day" or whether they both emerged simultaneously, post Civil War, the challenge of pinpointing an origin could easily keep a team of historians busy through Memorial Day 2010 at least.

Scrolling back through my personal associations with the holiday is considerably less daunting. I was born and raised a Beltway brat. This means that the memorials for honoring the people and events of the past were a routine fixture of my perpetual present. I was six years old when my parents first took me visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Not only was it the first military ceremony I ever witnessed but it was the first time I ever saw real soldiers. The fact that they could stand so still and move so precisely, made the experience seem all the more supernatural. The clicks of the taps of the shoes of the round the clock guards was utterly miraculous.

Who was this soldier who remained "unknown?" No answers would satisfy me. The questions I bombarded my parents with were, in fact, almost exactly the same questions that I was recently bombarded with by eleven-year-old cousin, Max. "It's many soldiers -- not just one" I am now able to explain. "They're from different wars and could belong to any family that lost someone." Through the process of trying to explain I am reminded of the impossibility of defining, quantifying or comprehending a loss of this magnitude and this loss that will continue to remain.


Don Bassman's Politiku

bold untouchable
implacable impartial
honor code of Death

Frankie Clogston's Politku

All over the Mall.
Memorial City, this.
Crowded memories.

Karen Goldner's Politiku

Cheney/Obama
Their talks remind me again
I'm glad Bush is done

Irene Gravina's Politiku

No sense to be made
Down on the grass by your grave
Green bug on my wrist

Peter Orvetti's Politiku

Thousands of lost souls
Fallen soldiers, orphaned young
For rights we squander

Susanna Speier's Politiku

Tomb of the Unknown
shoes that shine, that tap, that click
Beltway Kids, witness

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