A Memorial for Civil Society
Every Memorial Day that I can recall while I grew up in Portland, Ore., we went to visit my mom’s parents’ resting place. After moving away, first for college and later for work, I got out of the habit of visiting family members’ graves on Memorial Day. There just weren’t any within driving distance.
Now that I’m living in Missouri, it’s a little easier my great-great-great-great grandpa is buried about an hour and a half northeast of Kansas City, lying at the bottom of an abandoned well with several other people after they were all murdered. Although I visited the site in March, and had considered going there again over the Memorial Day weekend, a nasty bug has laid me out for the past few days … and the rain would have been a dealbreaker anyway my car didn’t handle so well on the muddy back roads last time.
I did, however, spend some time on Monday thinking about the value of civil society. Because we live in a country largely founded on principles of freedom, tolerance, and the rule of law, people with wildly different cultures, backgrounds, and belief systems can live comfortably together in the same communities. And although from time to time tragic incidents may occur like the one that killed one of my progenitors, and drove several others out of Missouri they are by far the exception rather than the rule. There are places in the world where this sort of organized persecution and violent purging happens all the time.
Ultimately, this is one of the most important historical innovations of the United States despite our differences, for the most part we all manage to live and work together in peace.