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Memorial Day

Walter Russell Mead

Today, on Memorial Day, beyond remembering those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States—twenty-one in the past year in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan—it’s worth remembering that many thousands continue to put their lives on the line every single day all around this increasingly unstable world.

It’s also worth remembering the U.S. soldier killed by a white supremacist a week ago at the University of Maryland, as well as the veteran stabbed to death on an Oregon train for defending Muslims. Both of these stories are a reminder that under the strain of war and political polarization, the United States is slowly becoming an uglier and more dangerous place. On the Right and on the Left, there are too many people who think that the other side is actively evil, and we are seeing violence slowly leak into our politics.

It’s worth remembering that our problems aren’t really caused by our domestic political opponents. The shift from a mature industrial economy and the decline of the blue social model isn’t coming because bad people are doing bad things. Radical jihadis and terrorists stalking us from the shadows hate the American Left as much as they hate the American Right. And while we are divided—as a diverse and complicated society inevitably must be—on a whole range of social, economic and political issues, we have a long history of finding peaceful and creative compromise solutions to even the most difficult problems.

Memorial Day is not just a day to remember the sacrifices of those who have given their lives to defend us. It’s a time to honor their sacrifice by rededicating ourselves to the job of making this country worthy of these sacrifices—by cultivating the virtues of tolerance, engagement, respect and liberty that have made America great in the past—and will keep her great if we will honor and practice them now.

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