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A Debt of Gratitude

By J.J. Gasparotti

Memorial Day is here. This is Laguna’s gateway holiday to a summertime village stuffed with tourists. We’ll celebrate it in the traditional way. Just like all the other small towns spread across this nation.

There will be flags a plenty, folks in old uniforms that sometimes fit and sometimes don’t. Folks will listen to speeches at Monument Point and eat a pancake breakfast cooked by firefighters with a view of the surf.

It is one of the six federal holidays that most folks get a paid day off. This makes it a big holiday for families to get together and for merchants to try selling us something on sale. But the real reason for this holiday is remembering the ultimate sacrifice so many American’s made when they lost their lives defending their country and our way of life.

When the founding fathers were debating our constitution, the question of who gets to vote came up. There was a strong argument that the vote should be reserved for property owners, as they had more of a stake in the outcome than some renter would. Thomas Jefferson pointed out that the common man wasn’t going to fight the nation’s war unless they had the vote.

All these fallen heroes, we remember each Memorial Day, gave their lives so we can participate and live in a free country, and many of us can’t even be bothered to cast the vote they paid so dearly for. Freedom isn’t just the ability to pick between Budweiser or Coors, to choose Ford over Chevy.

Freedom is the obligation to act like one of the owners of this country, this state or this town. The very least thanks we should give for our freedom is voting in our elections. Knowing the truth about what we’re voting on would be even better. We all need to get out and see how things are going for ourselves.

Because when we’re not in charge of our civic lives, somebody else is. And they’ll have their own agenda, not ours. When we have a democracy based on the concept that all men are created equal, we are saying we are all equally responsible for how things turn out.

We can’t delegate this obligation to somebody else and let George do it. That’s not what all those white crosses with their fresh holiday flags in our military cemeteries memorialize. Each one represents someone who left their home and family and put their life on the line. On Memorial Day, we honor the ones who didn’t come back.

J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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