Most of our national holidays have some connection with the Civil War. Memorial Day has the most direct relationship, as an expression of national unity between North and South. The remembrance reminds us that a nation cannot be reduced to an army nor to a marketplace. Plato in the Republic and human experience show how the political community embraces those necessary purposes and others beyond them, which fulfill the higher purposes of life. As individuals and as nations we live for those higher purposes.
On the eve of the Civil War Abraham Lincoln plead with the Southern States to renounce secession and remain in the Union. He concluded his First Inaugural with these haunting lines:
I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle–field, and patriot grave, to every living” heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.