Opinion | Susan Knopf: Memorial Day reflections | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Memorial Day reflections

I sat in the beautiful sanctuary of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, in Breckenridge. I participated in the Interfaith Council’s memorial vigil for those who perished in hateful gun violence in Buffalo and California. As I write this column, more children and their teachers have been gunned down in Texas. We’ve had more mass shootings than days of the year. My mind wanders to Memorial Day.

I wonder what our fallen service people would think of their country. How would they measure their sacrifice? I have never served in the military. I respect those who heed the call of duty. My father and father-in-law both served.

My father-in-law was at Guadalcanal — a gruesome WWII battle. He got malaria. His lung damage was permanent.

He was Republican. What would he think about January 6th? What would he think about a march in Charlottesville with torches, past a synagogue, during Saturday Shabbat services? Marchers shouted “Jews will not replace us!” My father-in-law was Jewish. Would he recognize his Republican party? Would he recognize his country?

For the record, the Republican candidate for Colorado governor is advocating the creation of a Colorado electoral college. His methodology would weight rural votes more than urban votes. He challenges our tradition, one person equals one vote. His methodology would have reelected the former president instead of Joe Biden.

Yeah it’s democracy, but if you don’t like the outcome, just change how you count the votes. Georgia passed a law which gives the legislature the right to overturn the public vote, if they suspect an issue. Now the Republican-controlled legislature controls general election results.

“Liberty and justice for all.” What does that mean? I thought I knew. I thought we were all working toward the same ideals. We had different ideas about how to get there, but we believed in the same values. Now I’m not so sure.

The party that wants to control a woman’s right to choose, also wants to strip Denverites of their voting rights. Can you really call it conservative if they want to conserve nothing? Rather, so many insist that their brand of nostalgia should prevail, and people of color and LGBTQ people should have fewer, if any, rights.

Summit County School Board member Lisa Webster served in the Air Force for 20 years. She graduated from the Air Force Academy. She was a C-130 pilot and a flight instructor. She told me, “Some people take advantage of freedom of speech. … Whose freedoms are more important? Memorial Day we honor those who defended freedom.”

Lisa and I both descend from immigrants. We each, in different ways, have made substantial contributions to our communities. We ponder why more people don’t see the value of new immigrants who want to come here to experience freedom, work hard and enjoy the reward of their labors.

Webster said, “As a service member I defended our Constitution … a government for and by the people. Our Constitution is written to be flexible. It depends on the philosophy of those who run our system.”

John Landon was a Summit County resident for 14 years and currently resides in Park County. He served in the Air Force for 27 years, and then worked as a civilian at the Pentagon for another 11 years.

He told me, “The country has been through periods like this before. Think about the Civil War and the Civil Rights (movement). There was conflict. There was false information.”

Landon and I recalled the political climate when he returned from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. He told me servicemen were warned not to wear their uniforms in the airport. He said in that way things are better now for military members.

I asked him if he thought when people are mad at their government, they just look for a scapegoat. It was soldiers in the ‘70s, and now it’s minorities, immigrants and LGBTQ members. Landon thought it plausible. He said, “You always tend to vent on people and things that are more tangible.”

Landon is optimistic, as is Webster. Landon said, “I always think the country will come out on the right side. … A lot of people are out there doing the right things.”

That’s why I imagine Webster serves on the school board — to do the right thing. And that’s why I keep writing this column trying to help heal the divide. What are you doing this Memorial Day?

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