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Memorial Day

Published Monday, May 27, 2013 @ 1:05 AM EDT
May 27 2013

(Published May 30, 2007 Chicago Tribune)

Garrison Keillor

Memorial Day is a lovely day in America, a day of reunion in small towns, where people drive up to the cemetery on Monday morning and file in, old-timers carrying lawn chairs, and even if you've missed a few years, people will come over and shake your hand and thank you for coming. You don't have to dress up or support the war in Iraq. You just come, and afterward there are hot dogs and potato salad at the Legion Club.

It's the last patriotic holiday that still means something, and it persists year after year despite the wooden rituals and leaden speeches. In Central Park on Monday, an admiral with a chestful of ribbons gripped the lectern and read his lines, and the line of his that got quoted was, "Their sacrifice has enabled us to enjoy the things that we, I think in many cases, take for granted," which does not ring, does it? No.

"Their sacrifice has enabled us to enjoy the things that many of us take for granted" would have been better, but still it's nothing people will take home with them and ponder. How about, "Their noble sacrifice has enabled us to see the ignobility of the leadership that sent them to their deaths"? How about, "We have sacrificed enough of our young men and women and it is time to bring them home to enjoy the things that the rest of us take for granted"?

The Current Occupant drove over the bridge to Arlington and spoke at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a site of powerful reverence, and his speechwriter, in a hurry to finish and enjoy his weekend, gave him, "From their deaths must come a world where the cruel dreams of tyrants and terrorists are frustrated and foiled -- where our nation is more secure from attack, and where the gift of liberty is secured for millions who have never known it," a line cobbled together from scrap lumber. Shades of "the last full measure of devotion" and "we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain" but made from different cloth. The reputation of the Gettysburg Address remains secure.

Dishonesty makes for poor rhetoric and that's what has gutted this beautiful holiday. The ideas it celebrates- that our young men and women did their duty and died in defense of their country- are simply not true. Vietnam was lost and it didn't matter to the security of the United States. Saigon fell and life in the States went on without a blink. And since the end of selective service, these honored dead are somebody else's sons and daughters, not ours- one good reason why there is so little protest of this war: If the Army were conscripting our children to go to Baghdad, the Occupant's approval rating would be in the low teens.

Memorial Day survives on the faint memories of World War II, the Good War. Those old Legion and VFW guys are the ones who keep it going. Some come in fatigues, some ride in golf carts past the rows of tombstones and the urns with fresh gardenias planted in them, and the Boy Scouts line up, and the auxiliary ladies in blue hand out little American flags. There is a distant HEE-YUP and the crowd shushes and the honor guard marches in, left, right, left, right, left, right, and Old Glory is raised on the flagpole, and we all recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The names of the dead are read and wreaths of poppies are placed and maybe somebody recites "In Flanders Fields":

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Everyone is a little stiff and self-consciously reverent. And then comes the speech. That's the problem. It is time for the truth to be told and we cannot bring ourselves to tell it. Good men and women were sacrificed to the vanity of politicians and generals. It is a miserable business to tell lies over the graves of good soldiers, but we do, and then we all sing "America the Beautiful," including the verse about heroes proved in liberating strife, and the honor guard fires its rifle salute and somebody presses Play on a boombox and we hear taps and the guard turns about-face and marches off and we walk away, thoughtfully, and there is much to think about.

(Garrison Keillor is an author and host of "A Prairie Home Companion.")

Categories: Garrison Keillor, Holidays


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Quote of the day

Published Monday, March 04, 2013 @ 6:19 AM EST
Mar 04 2013

March is the month God created to show people who don't drink what a hangover is like.
-Garrison Keillor

Categories: Garrison Keillor, Quotes of the day


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Quotes of the day

Published Tuesday, August 07, 2012 @ 8:14 AM EDT
Aug 07 2012

Quotes of the day- Garrison Keillor:
Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor (born August 7, 1942) is an American author, storyteller, humorist, and radio personality. He is known as host of the Minnesota Public Radio show A Prairie Home Companion. (Click here for full article.)

A girl in a bikini is like having a loaded pistol on your coffee table... There's nothing wrong with them, but it's hard to stop thinking about it.

A marriage, to be happy, needs an exterior threat. New York provides that threat.

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.

Ambition can take you far, but who are you when you get there?

Beauty isn't worth thinking about; what's important is your mind. You don't want a fifty-dollar haircut on a fifty-cent head.

Being Lutheran, Mother believed that self-pity is a deadly sin and so is nostalgia, and she had no time for either.

Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a function.

Democracy is fine by me, but sometimes I'm not sure about you.
(song lyrics)

Denmark is no vacation paradise. It is cold and rainy and dark except for June and July, when it's extremely expensive.

Face it: a nation that maintains a 72% approval rating on George W. Bush is a nation with a very loose grip on reality.

God is a great humorist. It's just that he has a slow audience to work with.

God writes a lot of comedy. The trouble is, He's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny.

Humor is not a trick, not jokes. Humor is a presence in the world- like grace- and shines on everyone.

I believe in comedy as a humane art and as a profound craft, despite the fact it is considered by most academics as a sort of bastard stepchild of literature, to be kept in the basement and fed cold cereal.

I favor marriage between people whose body parts are not similar. I'm sorry, but same-sex marriage seems timid, an attempt to save on wardrobe and accessories.

I think the most un-American thing you can say is, “You can't say that.”

I think if the church put in half the time on covetousness that it does on lust, this would be a better world for all of us.

If life is a journey, then your 60s are the homeward leg when you're hung up in an airport and thinking bad thoughts about your travel agent.

If tofu adds years to your life, they probably wouldn't be the best years.

If you depend on the news for your worldview, friends, you're in a sad place.

If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?

If you're going to follow the herd, you'd better watch your step.

In romance, as in life, you only learn when you're losing. When you're winning, you just sit there and grin like an idiot.

In time, one wearies of foolishness, but not soon enough.

It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning, their windows were shut, they couldn't hear the barbarians coming.

It's a shallow life that doesn't give a person a few scars.

It's better to be burnished with use than rusty with principle.

Jesus said the meek would inherit the earth, but so far all we've gotten is Minnesota and North Dakota.

March is the month God created to show people who don't drink what a hangover is like.

Marriage is like a feast where the appetizers are better than the main course and there is no dessert.

May your soul be forever tormented by fire and your bones be dug up by dogs and dragged through the streets of Minneapolis.

My ancestors were Puritans from England. They arrived here in 1648 in the hope of finding greater restrictions than were permissible under English law at that time.

Nature doesn't care about your golden years; it's aiming for turnover.

Never insult a writer. You may find yourself immortalized in ways you may not appreciate.

Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.

One day Donald Trump will discover that he is owned- lock, stock and roulette wheel- by Lutheran Brotherhood, and must negotiate his debt load with a committee of silent Norwegians who don't understand why anyone would pay more than $120 for a suit.

People in cars cause accidents and accidents in cars cause people.

Pumpkin pie is the epitome of mediocrity. The best pumpkin pie you ever ate isn't that much better than the worst.

Republicans might be heathens and out to destroy all that we hold dear, but that doesn't mean we need to take them seriously. Or be bitter or vituperative just because they are swine. I think one can still have friends who are Republicans.

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.

Some days you need to look reality in the eye, and deny it.

The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose.

The New York Times reads like it was edited by two elderly sociologists, one of whom has been dead for many years.

The reason marriage was invented was so that we wouldn't have to argue with strangers.

The relationship between truth and a newspaper is like the relationship between the color green and the number seven. Occasionally you will see the number seven written in green, but you learn not to expect this.

There is almost no marital problem that can't be helped enormously by taking off your clothes.

They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize I'm going to miss mine by just a few days.

Vodka is tasteless going down, but it is memorable coming up.

When it comes to finding available men in Minnesota, the odds are good, but the goods are odd.

When the chips are down, the buffalo are empty.

Where I come from, when a Catholic marries a Lutheran it is considered the first step on the road to Minneapolis.

Categories: Garrison Keillor, Quotes of the day


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