Editorial: Honoring those who gave ‘the last full measure of devotion'

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Editorial: Honoring those who gave ‘the last full measure of devotion'

On Monday, our nation will observe Memorial Day.

In Nassau County, an air show will take place at Jones Beach, village parades will honor fallen service members and those who served, and a “Commemoration and Fireworks Extravaganza” will be hosted by North Hempstead at the town’s beach park.

“Our Memorial Day celebrations are always a great way to kick off the summer season with family and friends. We’ve got delicious food, music and dancing, and one of Long Island’s most dazzling fireworks displays,” said North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena in a statement.

Some question whether the fireworks display, family barbecues and Memorial Day sales are a proper way to honor those who died serving this country.

But we believe it is. Celebrating the freedoms that those who served protected is one way for us to observe this occasion.

In her statement, DeSena rightly asked residents not to forget that Memorial Day was also “the nation’s solemn attempt to remember and honor the U.S. servicemen and women who gave their lives for our country and our ideals.”

We would ask that we go further and consider the ideals that the servicemen and women died for.

In President Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, the Union soldiers gave  “the last full measure of devotion” so this nation could survive.

Lincoln spoke those words in 1863, five years before the first Memorial Day was proclaimed to honor the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. But not the Confederate soldiers. This was not a small distinction.

Lincoln’s words in the Gettysburg Address also expressed the ideals upon which this nation was founded: “the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The nation's first Republican president concluded by expressing the meaning of Memorial Day.

“We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” he concluded.

Lincoln’s words have a special meaning in 2024. We live at a time when this nation is more politically divided than ever since the Civil War. And, in our view, our democracy appears to hang in the balance.

The presumptive nominee of one of the nation's two main political parties in 2024 refused to take part in the peaceful transfer of power in 2020 for the first time in the nation’s history.

Like the rule of law, the peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy that ensures we have, in Lincoln's words, a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Former President Donald Trump instead called the election rigged and orchestrated an attack on the U.S. Capitol intended to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.

Some in the mob attacked the police and threatened the lives of Republican Vice President Mike Pence and Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Some even carried Confederate flags – something never seen in the Capitol during the Civil War.

We recognize that many Trump supporters reading this believe the election was stolen and that we are mere partisans defending Biden.

But as the late U.S. Sen. Patrick Moynihan said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

Claims of election wrongdoing in 2020 were rejected in more than 60 court cases heard in state and federal courts by judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans, including Trump.

A group of conservatives, including former federal judges, examined every fraud and miscount claim by Trump and concluded that they “failed to present evidence of fraud or inaccurate results significant enough to invalidate the results.”

Christopher Krebs, a longtime Republican and former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, called the 2020 presidential election “the most secure in American history.”

During the current campaign, Trump has again indicated he will not accept the results of the 2024 presidential election if he loses.

He has also refused to rule out violence if he were to lose in November.

“It always depends on the fairness of the election,” he said in an interview late last month.

Whether you like his policies or not, the presumptive Democrat, Biden, has never made a similar threat.

Trump has also expressed hostility to the U.S. justice system, attacking judges,  prosecutors and FBI agents. This includes three of the four judges presiding over state and federal cases against him.

He has also said he would use the Justice Department to target political opponents, including Biden.

Sadly, he is supported by Republicans seeking to be his vice presidential pick, MAGA Republicans and even Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson.

They all ventured to Manhattan last week to attack the judge presiding over the election interference and hush money case against Trump and the prosecutor who brought the charges.

Not over the outcome of the case—that has yet to be decided by a jury of Trump’s peers—but for bringing the case in the first place and presiding in an appropriate manner over it.

We now learn that an upside-down U.S. flag - a symbol of the “Stop the Steal” movement flew over the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. only days after the Trump-inspired insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

Alito is currently participating in two Jan. 6 cases against Trump.

Trump has also threatened to muzzle press organizations that are critical of him and expressed support for members of an autocratic alliance that is led by China and includes Russia, North Korea, and Iran. He said he wanted to be a dictator on day one.

On Monday, Trump’s social media account shared a video referencing a “unified Reich” in a post about how the country will change if he becomes president again.

The German phrase “reich” refers to an empire but also carries the connotation of Adolf Hitler’s “Third Reich,” another name for his Nazi regime.

To their credit, Johnson and other Republican members of Congress, after months of delay, approved military funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia as well as Israel and Taiwan.

But can we expect Republicans in Congress to continue their support of democracies like Ukraine if Trump wins in November?

Republican and Democratic elected officials and candidates for office in Nassau County will stand before people assembled over the Memorial Day weekend and speak about their respect for those who died protecting this country and its ideals.

But do they mean it? Do they believe what Lincoln said at Gettysburg?

The coming election season will allow us to find out.

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