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Postponement of Memorial Day ceremony is ironic at best

Posted on 5/20/2020, 3:27 PM

On Tuesday, the city of Harrisburg decided to cancel its annual Memorial Day ceremony.

The ceremony is one of the longest continuous traditions in the city.

This year, the city has overhauled the veterans memorial at Sunset Lawn cemetery. In the process, cemetery sexton Jacob Palmer discovered that when it was first created, it was a way to memorialize World War I veterans who had been killed in action from across Saline County.

At some point, the city had agreed to maintain the area, and add white crosses for veterans killed in anticipated future military engagements.

But apparently, the state of Illinois and perhaps the governor himself was not happy with the idea of a Memorial Day ceremony given the current COVID-19 situation in the country.

It is unclear what actually whether the state actually threatened to take some sort of action, but Harrisburg Mayor John McPeek said he received what he termed a "rudely worded" letter from the state expressing disbelief that the Memorial Day ceremony was planned.

If the state was planning to punish people for attending a Memorial Day ceremony, that is an action that is, at the worst pure hypocrisy. At best, it is ironic.

I say that because in this case, this is a ceremony to honor members of the U.S. armed forces who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, to defend the U.S. Constitution and the freedoms with which we as Americans are blessed.

Last week, Gov JB Pritzker unveiled new measures designed to enforce his stay-at-home orders, including directing Illinois State Police trooopers to arrest people at gatherings larger than 50.

We've had six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saline County. Most of our rural neighboring counties have similarly low numbers.

I understand the concept behind current safety protocols. I think the governor's original stay-at-home order truly did reduce the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths. For some reason, though, he keeps extending the order, which is being challenged in court. He's becoming more heavy-handed with the rules he's creating, which at least gives the appearance than now that his authority is being questioned, he's going to start arresting people en masse.

Coronavirus is a public safety issue and concern.

But we know about face masks. We know about washing our hands. We know about staying six feet apart.

I have a hunch that if our current President decided to lock down Illinois and threatened to send federal officers to arrest people, our governor would feel the same way people feel right now in Saline County.