For the first time in the 12 years of Barataria, a week went by without a post. I was busy, driving a Budget rent-a-truck with everything Raquel and I owned, along with August the westie and Tony the tiger-cat, to San Francisco. But that’s not as important as what we saw or how it is consecrated on Memorial Day.
In South San Francisco. Where I actually live, there is a Chinese cemetery. It was started at a time when Chinese could not be buried with “white” people, but kept up as such long after the racism abated. Today, it flutters with red, white, and blue like any other hallowed ground.
How big is America? It it as big as Wyoming, measured out by Interstate 80? Is it as big as a new start, a new career with a new wife in a new city? It is all of that and more, so much more. It is as big as the hearts that imagined and created and defended it, despite rejection and scorn. America is bigger than any of us can imagine.
Today marks the first Memorial Day that Bertram Kornfeld, uncle Bert to my friend Gary, lies interred under a stone with his accomplishments and Old Glory. He came to this nation as a child, fleeing the holocaust at the last moment. Once he was of age, he returned to Europe in a US Army uniform and served the nation and the cause that defined his life. Once a refugee, he quickly became a hero.
We remember all of these people today because a nation this great is not made easily. It takes that much blood, that much scorn and rejection turned around, that much imagination, that much commitment. The United States of America is the greatest nation on earth because of who came here, not in spite of them. To be a part of something great is a calling, and history teaches us that many different people have risen to that challenge.
No one should ever doubt how incredible this nation is. To say that there is no room for the sweat, the language, the dreams and the blood of those who still dare to be part of the next wave of greatness is to insult not just our past but our future as well. To imagine America as something smaller is the only great sin in the rough and tumble vastness of space and imagination stretching out over this great land.
To be American is to be humbled, yet driven. To be American is to know there is more, despite there being so much. To be American is to be live in grace, gladly giving in the warm embrace of so very much more.
Memorial Day is about the this greatness, fluttering across the eternal. On this one day, it takes only a little imagination to see how big our nation really is. Please, for the love of all that is good and great, let us see it and honor it together.