The exact origins of Memorial Day are debated but date back to at least the Civil War era, when the holiday was created to honor members of the military who died.
This Monday, we should honor all those who have died, including the 90,000 or so Americans, as well as the 300,000-plus around the globe felled by the pandemic
- N.J. farmworkers will be screened for coronavirus symptoms; businesses reopening early can lead to virus’ spread, health official warns
- ‘Don’t go to the beach,’ health official tells Philly residents; Wolf questions reopening of Shore towns
- As Jersey Shore heads toward Memorial Day weekend: Distancing on the beach, not on the boardwalk
And the way to do this is easy. Don’t go to the beach, or to crowded public places, or out in public at all without protection and an abundance of caution and distance. That’s how we can honor the dead this year. The added benefit is that we keep ourselves and others safe.
Since March’s effective shutdown of much of society, we have all scrutinized the performance of our leaders — from the White House to governors to mayors and town managers — as they have navigated the public health and economic crises. Gov. Tom Wolf has gotten good marks on his caution, but not his transparency. Gov. Phil Murphy has also exercised caution, but New Jersey also has an alarming death rate in its nursing homes.
How have the rest of us done?
The performance of citizens is also a mixed bag. On the positive side, we have learned a new appreciation for frontline health-care and service workers, especially those whose working conditions — low pay, little job protection, and sketchy health care — should have concerned us long before this. The speed with which most people have adapted to this severe disruption is impressive, and widespread examples of community support and compassion is also cause for optimism.
Still, given what we have seen in the past few weeks — the performance of our fellow citizens also forces us to acknowledge many not-proud moments. Among them: armed protesters across the country and the state decrying loss of liberty and governmental overreach for being forced to wear masks. Gyms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey defying orders to stay closed. And last weekend, the unmasked hordes strolling the boardwalks in Ocean City and crowding the beaches of the Jersey Shore, a scene that is likely to be repeated this holiday weekend. We understand that two months of being shut down at home, with businesses dying is a terrible thing. But New Jersey is second in the nation in COVID-19 deaths — which now exceed 10,000. People: What are you thinking?
The devastation on lives and businesses has been terrible over the past 60-odd days. But for perspective, consider that was about the number of days the Germans dropped bombs on London during the Blitz of World War II. Every single day, for 57 days, leading to tens of thousands of deaths and millions of lost homes. That misery was compounded by severe shortages, rationing, evacuations, and other deprivations that lasted for years.