Commentary

Gov. Cuomo Uses Memorial Day To Highlight COVID Deaths, Draws Huge Backlash

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo earned himself a fresh wave of criticism ahead of Memorial Day after issuing a directive to lower flags to half-staff on Sunday to honor fallen front-line pandemic workers.

While the governor directed flags to be flown at half-staff on Monday to honor fallen military members, he also ordered them lowered and state monuments lit up to honor “essential workers” who died during the pandemic.

“Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed flags on State government buildings to be flown at half-staff and state landmarks to be lit red, white and blue on Sunday, May 30 to honor the essential workers who lost their lives due to COVID-19,” the official directive read.

“Flags will remain at half-staff until noon and landmarks will remain lit on Monday, May 31 for Memorial Day in honor of the service members who lost their lives fighting to defend our country.”

While it’s always worth memorializing those who sign up to risk their own well-being for the sake of protecting others, front-line pandemic workers are simply not the fallen military heroes for whom the holiday was established.

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So Cuomo’s order was guaranteed to be wildly offensive, and as you can imagine, the order had some people, like Gold Star wife Michelle Garcia, understandably upset.

“We have Memorial Day to honor our fallen and we have Veteran’s Day to honor our veterans. Our essential workers do deserve that, but our fallen heroes deserve this weekend and Memorial Day to be about them,” she told News 12 The Bronx.

Garcia, whose husband Justin died in Iraq in 2006 when she was six months pregnant with their son, wrote the governor a letter admonishing him to reconsider the move.

Meanwhile, Rockland County Executive Ed Day, a former first responder, called Cuomo’s directive a “sickening effort to co-opt the true meaning of Memorial Day” and said his county would not be participating.

David Whipple, whose son died in Afghanistan, told WGRZ-TV that the holiday has a specific meaning and should be honored.

“There are a number of days that recognize the military, but Memorial Day is the only day that recognizes the fallen soldiers, Navy, and it’s all about them,” Whipple told WGRZ.

“And to take another group, a deserving group, and comingle that with these folks, for over 200 years, who have fought for our freedom, lost their lives? No, I disagree with the decision to comingle, even if it’s Saturday, Sunday versus Monday. That weekend is Memorial Day weekend. That’s for a special group and we ought to keep it that way,” he added.

Dan Frontera, a veteran of the Iraq War and an organizer for the Afghanistan-Iraq Memorial at the Buffalo Naval Park, said it was totally valid to honor essential workers — on a holiday weekend not reserved for fallen soldiers, that is.

“Yes, recognize the people who were there to support COVID. Recognize the first responders, the nurses, the doctors who gave everything they had,” he told WGRZ.

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“But this holiday, this weekend, when you raise your glass, when you have your barbecue, it’s not about them. It’s about the young men and young women who gave their lives, who will be forever young, in the service of this nation. It’s not about what Gov. Cuomo wants, not at all.”

Indeed, veterans often make a point on Memorial Day to remind Americans that the holiday is not about them, as is a common misunderstanding — it’s about their fallen brethren.

Cuomo’s decision to lower flags for essential workers on Memorial Day weekend had a fan in the service workers’ industry, at least. Kyle Bragg, who is the president of 32BJ, a branch of the Service Employees International Union, told News 12 he was grateful.

“Some workers made the ultimate sacrifice, including over 150 of our union’s members. We thank Gov. Andrew Cuomo for honoring their lives and sacrifices by including them in New York State’s Memorial Day tribute,” he said.

During a news conference on May 24, the governor said that on Memorial Day “we remember those who gave their lives on Memorial Day, gave their lives for this country, fought for freedom, because freedom isn’t free.”

“I also think we should remember this past year on Memorial Day, remember the 42,000 New Yorkers who died. Forty-two thousand. Remember the 1,000 essential workers who died giving their life, giving their life. Seasons change, but memories have to remain, lessons have to remain,” he explained.

Cuomo did not specifically mention the thousands of nursing home patients who died after he ordered facilities to re-admit patients who had tested positive for COVID-19, as it happens.

Honestly, this is such a pandemic-era far-left Democrat thing to do.

Instead of say, establishing a new day to honor fallen essential workers, something which was hardly bound to be controversial, Cuomo just had to do something that was almost guaranteed to offend no doubt millions of New Yorkers and Americans in general.

This is a man, of course, who leveraged the pandemic for his own image, penning a book, showing up on his brother’s CNN program for some cheap yuks, and painting himself and Dr. Anthony Fauci as Pacino and De Niro — no, seriously, he actually made this cringe-worthy comparison.

Cuomo is actually taking away from any commemoration to be had for fallen military heroes and deceased front-line pandemic workers by trying to jam the latter into the former’s holiday, and to what end? Is this yet another subtle left-wing dig at the military, another ploy to establish the state cult of COVID-fear, another skirmish in the battle to redefine American patriotism or some combination of all three?

Who even knows anymore?

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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