The Independent Market Observer

5/23/14 – Memorial Day Reflections

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on May 23, 2014 12:30:00 PM

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One of the joys of being a father is explaining to Jackson things that I, as an adult, take for granted. Today, we’ve been talking about Memorial Day—not as the start of summer but as a time to remember those who have died so we can live in freedom.

Jackson doesn’t really understand this yet, and it will be years before he does. The older I get, the more I seem to understand it, and the more the tragedy of a life cut short seems to grow. When I think of the kids who died in all of our wars, their sacrifice looms larger and larger against the life I’m fortunate to lead.

Much to be grateful for

We have many reasons to be grateful. The economy is returning to normal. U.S. troops have largely been withdrawn from the wars. U.S. politics has stabilized from a confrontation that threatened to blow up the economy to the usual cold war between Republicans and Democrats.

Our blessings are even more apparent when you look around the world. There has just been a coup in Thailand. Shooting continues in Ukraine. Bombs are going off in China and Iraq. Chinese, Vietnamese, and North and South Korean naval vessels are confronting each other. And all of this is just in the past week or so.

A richer, freer world than ever before

Historical context is equally important. I’m barely old enough to remember “duck and cover” emergency drills in elementary school, when we went into the halls, leaned against the walls, and covered our heads with our hands—not much protection against a (now unimaginable) nuclear attack.

Europe has been at peace for the longest time in, well, ever. Around the world, billions of people have been brought out of abject poverty, largely through a U.S.-led free trade sphere that has put China and many developing nations on the road to prosperity. Even with the terrible recent wars, deaths due to conflict are at historic lows.

We as a country have been a measurable force for good in the world. A free, prosperous Europe is due largely to U.S. policies in and after World War II. The U.S. Navy continues to guarantee freedom of oceanic trade around the globe. China’s current prosperity relies on that trade, and U.S. openness to its exports. Things could have been very different, and much worse.

Remembering the past as we look to the future

This isn’t to deny the problems we face or the mistakes we have made. But the best way to honor past sacrifices is by ensuring that current and future sacrifices are necessary to maintain our role as a force for good in the world.

My family will certainly welcome the long weekend and the start of summer. I’ll probably spend quite a bit of time turning blue in a pool that’s not all that heated, and barbecue will no doubt play a part. Even as we enjoy the weekend, though, I will do my best to be conscious of how blessed we are, and how much of that we owe to those who came before us—and those who serve in various ways today.

Have a great weekend!

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