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  • Writer's pictureNew Gloucester GOP

Guest Post: Rep. Amy Arata's Memorial Day Speech




Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day”, followed the devastation of the Civil War, as

a day to spread flowers on the graves of soldiers. On April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Mississippi,

Confederate graves were decorated, but a southern lady named Augusta Cox noticed that the

graves of Union soldiers were bare. She said, “Let’s drop a flower on each of their graves for

their Mothers’ sakes, each mound represents some Mother’s darling.” News of this

inspirational act of kindness spread nationwide, and Mrs. Cox later said, “We know Jesus would

have us forgive as we hope to be forgiven. He loved everyone, and we are to follow His

example, or we cannot be His disciples.”

A similar act of reconciliation occurred right here in Maine in 1862, when the Ladies of Gray

raised money for a headstone for an unknown Confederate soldier whose body had mistakenly

been sent to the family of Lieutenant Charles Colley. When Decoration Day became a formal

holiday in 1868, they placed a Confederate flag on this stranger’s grave. How painful that must

have been for them, knowing that flag was a symbol of the enemy who had killed their son,

husband, father, or friend! Yet they faced this pain and placed a Confederate flag on his grave

out of respect for this individual, and to remember the history of what we’ve been through as a

nation and the reconciliation that was so desperately needed.

Many of us feel pain, revulsion, or bewilderment when we see a Confederate flag. It’s

bewildering that so many people were willing to suffer and die for an unjust cause. If you

believe the sanitized “Gone With the Wind” version of slavery, I urge you to read the Narrative

of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. You can find it online for free, and it gives

a first-person account of the beatings, murders, rapes, and other cruelty done to enslaved

people in America. It’s truly bizarre and unfathomable that hundreds of thousands of regular

people were willing to die for something so reprehensible!

Accurate historical reenactments help us to stop and think, “If regular people like these could

have sincerely believed in something so wrong, is it possible that I may also believe in

something that’s wrong?” They believed that an entire race was less than human. Is there a

group of people who we treat as less than human based on their age, ability, or race? We

should be grateful for the time of reflection that these actors provide for us, even if it makes us

uncomfortable.

You may think that such a mass delusion could never happen in this modern world with our

instant access to information and communication. However, sadly, it is happening right now in

a modern country that doesn’t have the freedom of speech and religion that we often take for

granted. The majority of Russians, where the state controls the media, communication, and

religion, believe that the attack on Ukraine is justified, even though the attack was unprovoked

and thousands of innocent people have been killed. As Americans, we can’t take our freedoms

for granted. This includes our freedom to display whatever flags we want to, and the freedom

to protest peacefully. I’m grateful that our military continues to be vigilant in protecting our

constitutional rights. I’m especially grateful for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,

whom we honor today.


In conclusion, we must remember history and teach it to our children; the good and the bad,

the pain as well as the victory. We must strive toward reconciliation with those we have

battled, both internationally and domestically. The ladies who decorated the graves of the

enemy on that first Memorial Day inspired a poem by Francis Miles Finch called “The Blue and

the Gray”, and here’s a part of it:

By the flow of the inland river,

  Whence the fleets of iron have fled,

Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,

  Asleep are the ranks of the dead:

      Under the sod and the dew,

        Waiting the judgment-day;

      Under the one, the Blue,

        Under the other, the Gray.

       

These in the robings of glory,

  Those in the gloom of defeat,

All with the battle-blood gory,

  In the dusk of eternity meet:

      Under the sod and the dew,

        Waiting the judgment-day,

      Under the laurel, the Blue,

        Under the willow, the Gray.

No more shall the war cry sever,

  Or the winding rivers be red;

They banish our anger forever

  When they laurel the graves of our dead!

      Under the sod and the dew,

        Waiting the judgment-day,

      Love and tears for the Blue,

        Tears and love for the Gray.


May God bless you and your families as you enjoy the gift of freedom on this Memorial Day.



 

*This is a guest post by Rep. Amy Arata. The New Gloucester GOP supports the right of individuals to submit guest blog posts freely, and without censorship. If you are interested in sharing an article, or post please send all submissions to newgloucestergop@gmail.com

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