The Pathetic Truth About Memorial Day and How to Fix It

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A few years ago, I visited a town in southern Holland where it is a tradition for children there to "adopt" the grave of one of the thousands of American soldiers that were killed in the struggle to liberate the area from the Nazis during WWII.

On that day, I watched as a young boy carefully plucked weeds, cleared debris and gingerly placed flowers on the grave of a man he never knew.

Noticing that I was observing him, the boy stepped toward me and innocently asked a question that I will never forget: "Do the children in America adopt the graves of soldiers?"

The child looked up at me expectantly, as I hesitated just briefly before uttering my reply: I said, "Yes, American children do that, too."

I lied. I was simply too ashamed to tell this child the truth.

Today I am going to utter a few truths about the condition of Memorial Day in the USA.

The Pathetic Truth

If I had been candid to that young Dutch boy, this is what I would have told him:
"Son, Americans don't honor the graves of their fallen soldiers. Americans have one single day each year that they call "Memorial Day," when people used to commemorate the soldiers that died in the service of their country by placing flags or flowers on their graves. But hardly anybody does that anymore, even on Memorial Day. In the USA, the lives of the people are too busy. They have lots of shopping, texting and social networking to do."
Would I have been exaggerating? No.

A poll commissioned by the National WWII Museum in 2011 revealed that 80% of Americans are mostly or totally unfamiliar with the meaning of Memorial Day or the reason it is celebrated. A separate poll taken by Gallup in 2000 reported that only 28% of Americans could correctly cite the meaning of Memorial Day.

In an informal survey that I took of American children, not a single one of them had any idea of the meaning of Memorial Day. And children caring for graves? PULEEEESE!

Let's be honest with ourselves, folks: Memorial Day is dead in America. Or at least, it is in a critically morbid condition. And it is very difficult to imagine how it will ever be resurrected.

Why We Don't Care Anymore

Many of us fancy the notion that we "don't have time for that sort of stuff anymore." Is it true? In 1960, each day had 24 hours. In 2013 each day still has 24 hours. So, clearly, the actual amount of time available to us is not the issue.

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