POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Song of Freedom

by David Trumbull - June 4, 2010

Each year I see fewer and fewer men on the street wearing remembrance poppies on Memorial Day. This year I couldn’t even find anyone selling “Buddy Poppies,” the paper replica flowers that the Veterans of Foreign Wars sell to raise money for disabled veterans. I wore one I saved from last year or the year before—I guess I’m getting used to not find poppies, so I save one from year to year.

Poppies on days of remembrance and recognition—Memorial Day and Veterans Day—are a sort of secular sacramental—like the smudge of ash that Catholics bear on their foreheads on the first day of lent—an outward and visible sign. Such public displays are good and ought to be promoted, especially among the young. While we do not compel anyone to any particular observation, the man, or woman, who neglects such ritualized acts of honor ought to stand out from the norm.

This past weekend I saw no one else wearing a Memorial Day poppy. Perhaps I should have seen more poppies had I gone to some official Memorial Day event. I commend those who kept this Memorial Day by participating in or viewing a patriotic parade, attending to a fallen warrior's grave, or listening to patriotic speeches. Here in Boston the Trumbulls paused and reflected on the meaning of the day while we enjoyed a cook-out. We chose to celebrate the day as the opening of summer season at the Clubs at Charles River Park. Remember, our freedom—hard-won with the blood of patriots—is also the freedom to simply enjoy a summer day with loved ones however we choose.

In 1942, with America suffering set-backs in World War Two—our final victory was far from assured in the early, unsuccessful months of American participation in the war—Irving Berlin, in a song written for the movie Holiday Inn, summed up the meaning of American freedom:

“Free to speak and free to hear Free from want and free from fear Sons of freedom far and near who agree Sing with me That all God's children shall be free”

Thanks to the men and women who served, and sometimes died for, our nation, we are FREE!

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]