Memorial Day 2020

Today, the United States observes Memorial Day. It originated as a day to honor Union soldiers who died during the Civil War, but expanded over time to include service members who died in any armed conflict.

I am also thinking today of all the civilians who lose their lives in wars. Perhaps, this is because I just finished watching World on Fire on Masterpiece, which is about people from various countries in World War II Europe.

As the country continues its struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we often hear politicians and media describe it as a war. The medical personnel, first responders, and caregivers are called the front line, a term that is sometimes also applied to other essential workers, such as transit, delivery, and grocery workers. I am confused, though, by the use of the term “warrior.” Sometimes, it seems that the general public are considered warriors, serving others by staying at home to avoid spreading the virus further. Others are using the term warriors to describe those who are giving up on stay-at-home orders and going back to “normal” whether or not the public health officials say it is wise.

I am extraordinarily grateful to be living in New York State, where our governor and other leaders are methodically working to expand economic activity while safeguarding public health. National news reports have shared data that twenty-four states are re-opening their economies with the rate of infection still increasing, even though the national guideline is that at least two weeks of declining infections is required first.

While I remain unsure of who the “warriors” are, I am painfully aware of who the casualties are in this war. As I write this, there are 98,000+ confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the United States. The number will surely reach 100,000 within the next two days. Over these last few months, the United States has lost more lives to coronavirus that it has service personnel in all the wars since the end of World War II combined.

Today, I am commemorating all the service members and civilians who died in war and all the pandemic victims. May their memories strengthen us to serve others.

Lantern Floating Ceremony in Honolulu

My daughter attended this year’s ceremony. The combining/adaptation/re-interpretation of cultural elements doesn’t surprise me as it happens so frequently in Hawai’i. Thanks to Within the K Streets for this post and to Rowena of beyondtheflow, whose reblog brought me here.
JC

WITHIN THE K STREETS

“I’m not coming out until you promise not to float me.”

Since 1999, an esoteric Buddhist denomination called Shinnyo-en has sponsored a “Lantern Floating” ceremony on Memorial Day to create a moment of reflection and collective compassion and remember those who have passed.

The name “Shinnyo-en” means “a borderless garden of the unchanging and real nature of things,” and its principal doctrine encourages everyone to develop the ability to act with unwavering loving kindness and compassion. That’s a pretty good thing, methinks.

Lantern close upThe original Lantern Floating was a modest affair, held in a lagoon out near Honolulu Airport but grew in popularity and since 2002 it has been held annually at Ala Moana Beach Park, the major regional park adjacent to Waikiki.

How popular is it? About 40,000 people attend the ceremony. Folks stake out their positions on the lawn areas 24 hours in advance and guard their position…

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