THE DIFFERENCES

1. It’s Monday, May 30, 2016.

2. It’s Memorial Day.

3. It’s a testament to human imperfection that every nation in the world has war dead to commemorate. Even the Swiss, whose famed neutrality was forged in battles with those who didn’t respect it. In whatever ways they deem appropriate, nations on every continent pay tribute to their war dead.

What makes those who fought and died for the United States of America different is they trace their origins to all the other countries of the world.

Perhaps they could have fought for the country where their families originated. Perhaps they could have gone somewhere else.

But, for whatever reason and in whatever circumstance, they fought for this country. That they died for it is the price they paid so that their chosen countryman could live in the freedom they protected.

4. And they fought and died despite some shortcomings.

African-Americans were enslaved for more than two centuries and have faced varying degrees of discrimination in the 150-plus years since emancipation. And yet the cemeteries are filled with those who wore the American flag on their uniform.

Hispanics, many of whose relatives didn’t speak English and have been derided for that, died for this country. Asian-Americans, who faced exclusion and taunts and – for some – even internment, died for this country.

Jews and Muslims died for this country despite proclamations by many politicians that this is a Christian nation. Those Muslims fought for this country even as some said they were one with the enemy.

Gays – many of whom were forced to deny their identity so that they could, in fact, fight for this country – died for this country.

And I’m going to throw in my fellow Italian-Americans. Faced with discrimination, taunting and insinuations that they were all Mafioso, they fought and died for this country.

When some blowhards talk about making American great again, they insult the idea that these people didn’t already make America great. That these people, and all the other Americans who gave their lives from Lexington to Kabul, weren’t part of something that gets greater and greater as each day passes.

Other nations can claim that those who fought for them are a varied bunch. No nation can claim it with the force and conviction that our nation can. That so many of them – at best guess, about 1.4 million of them – have died to make us the most vaunted nation in the world is the reason today is so very special.

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