Editor’s Note: This editorial has been updated to correct the attribution in the sixth and seventh paragraphs.
America just celebrated those who died preserving our freedoms.
What many Americans actually do with that hard-won liberty is increasingly less than impressive.
While some of us are trimming tombs and saluting our war dead, others are essentially spitting on their graves.
They don't even wait for a less inappropriate time, either: Memorial Day weekend itself was a bloody mess in some quarters, with melees and crime spikes in Miami, Charlotte, N.C., Boston, Charlotte, N.Y. and more -- even in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where, during a biker event, "police received reports of five armed robberies, a stabbing, a shooting and an incident involving a shotgun being pointed at a security guard during a nearly eight-hour period," according to one report.
In Nashville, a wave-action pool called Wave Country was closed down Monday when an impatient queue of customers became unruly. "A significant number of kids grew impatient and started to jump the fence surrounding the park," a public official said.
But it goes way beyond bad manners and line-jumping. Miami Herald blogger Steve Rothaus reported Monday that Miami Beach activist Herb Sosa called the Memorial Day/Urban Weekend celebration there "nothing short of a war zone," with violence and widespread property damage to cars and buildings and streets literally trashed.
"There isn't a residential street in South Beach not affected by tons of garbage, crime to our vehicles, excessive noise 24 hours a day, and simply a lack of respect for our community, citizens and property," Sosa wrote in an open plea to city officials to rein in the chaos.
These incidents, as aggravated as they are by Memorial Day gatherings, really have become a year-round phenomenon -- part of the new American landscape. Besides allegedly impromptu trashings of 24-hour restaurants, there also are social media-coordinated "smash and rob" attacks on other retail establishments, such as one at a Dunkin' Donuts in New York recently.
These people are rampaging for no reason, stealing milk and honey in the land of milk and honey. There is no shortage of doughnuts in America; it's not as if a starving people were doing all this to survive.
What happens if the economy does collapse, and if need does become rampant? What kind of character will America show then, when it's showing this kind of animalistic leanings at a time of relative plenty?
What exactly is the American character today -- and how did it get here?
We have some suspicions.
Unemployment, particularly among the young, is one explanation -- but only part of the picture. This country has seen worse times than these, and endured them with infinitely more dignity.
No, there are other reasons -- including the continued meltdown of the nuclear family; the ebbing of churchgoing and moral values; and a news media and culture that, for decades now, have beat Americans over the head with the message that 1) the customer is always right and 2) the deck is stacked against you.
Nutty left-wing propagandist Michael Moore is out there churning mobs up with the message that other people have money that "isn't theirs, it's ours." Protesters in California and elsewhere now openly and unashamedly call for communism, a system in which all property is communal -- and can be taken according to perceived "need."
So, what are young Americans to think, and how are they to comport themselves -- if there are no absolute morals or parents to teach them; if they're trained to see themselves as victims of the capitalistic system; if self-gratification, which has now become enshrined as some sort of civil right, is seen as denied them by a society that unfairly expects them to abide by the law, to work and to pay their freight?
What we have here isn't a lack of anything tangible; what we have today is widespread shortages of character.
Consider: Someone recently broke into Golden Harvest Food Bank in Augusta to steal copper piping -- shutting off refrigeration and endangering 57,000 pounds of food that had been accumulated to feed the hungry in the area. That's as low as it gets.
More than the parades, more than the flags and the salutes and the fireworks and the wreaths, our war dead and our loved ones who now watch over us from the next life should be honored with honorable behavior on our part. We owe them, and each other, a life and a society that respects liberty by exhibiting responsibility.
Too often, they're getting the precise opposite.