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People pay tribute to the United Stated Armed Forces Monday, May 31, 2021, at Sarg Hubbard Park in Yakima, Wash. Members of the Marine Corps League 1055 hosted the Memorial Day service.

Everybody loves a three-day weekend. Especially this time of year, when sunny — but still not too hot — Yakima Valley days invite us outside for barbecues, bike rides, gardening and other fair-weather fun.

The original idea of Memorial Day, though, wasn’t just to give us a paid holiday to go outside and play.

At its heart, this is a somber occasion — a day set aside to visit the gravesites of fallen service members and honor the selfless sacrifices so many young men and women made for the sake of our country. Their headstones at Tahoma Cemetery and other sites around the Valley bear witness to the price they paid.

They gave their lives — their lives — so the rest of us could be safe and live free.

But now some of the most basic of those freedoms are under attack from misguided people who somehow seem to think what they’re doing is patriotic.

Their misunderstanding of patriotism is clear from the scores of new laws they’ve helped pass. Laws aimed at restricting certain people’s access to voting — the core principle of a democratic society. Laws that take away a woman’s ability to choose what she does with her own body.

Their distorted vision of America is based on autocratic or perhaps theocratic thinking. Whatever it is, it’s not democracy. It’s not liberty and justice for all.

This new breed of “patriot” unapologetically blurs lines separating church and state and openly embraces policies rooted in racism. They paste hateful messages on their bumpers, their T-shirts and on menacing flags that fly in their front yards.

Until recent years, few people would’ve disputed that the United States is the greatest — or at least the most successful — country in world history.

Maybe we just got too comfortable.

Maybe we got spoiled by having so many brave service members willing to fight our battles for us for so long. They protected our way of life so well that many of us can’t imagine living any other way.

And now here we are. A nation threatened from within by ignorance and hate.

Former President Donald Trump once famously dismissed fallen American service members as “losers” and “suckers.”

We find that offensive. And we can’t imagine how it wouldn’t be to anyone else who loves this country and has any appreciation for the courageous service members who’ve protected it for so many years.

But if we continue down this path, keep unraveling our own principles and disrespecting our own founding values, it’s equally hard to imagine how the brave, fallen members of our military could feel anything but betrayed.

They fought tooth and nail to stop the bloody reign of the Nazis in World War II. Think they’d be proud to see swastikas flying at hate rallies?

Maybe it’s worth a thought as you’re enjoying those burgers and sipping a cold beer on your patio this weekend:

Are we living up to the sacrifices of the fallen, or did they die in vain?

Yakima Herald-Republic editorials reflect the collective opinion of the newspaper’s local editorial board.