No one wants to be seen as the odd one out. Whether it is a matter of mandatory respect, or mandatory altruism, there is a dynamic that encourages everyone to fall in line regardless of whether the individual shares a common belief or not. The alternative is stigma and abhorrence.
I spent today, Memorial Day in the United States, eating barbecue and napping. As for the few times that I glanced up to look at the television, I noticed nothing but an awkward silence and constant reminder that today was Memorial Day. Having seen this several times today, I noticed that each time would result in an announcer calling for a moment of silence to honor those that we have lost and a crowd waiting impatiently for the moment of silence to end. I honestly believe that a large portion of the people involved in these moments of silence felt more inconvenienced than anything as they performed this mandatory silence. Ask yourself, did you wake this morning prepared to devote your day to honoring the dead? Was it really foremost on your mind? Or, did the sights and sounds of those around you result in greater reflection, just as your presence certainly reminded them of the same?
Many would argue that the end result is the same: a state of honoring the dead and respecting the holiday. That may be. However, consider the dynamic at hand. A non-trivial portion of people couldn’t care less about the meaning of today. They fall in line because they are expected to, because there is a detriment to dismissing the spirit of the holiday. Would they really continue to yap while those around them were silent? Once again, I ask you to ask yourself: did today matter beyond the sales, barbecues, and booze, or was the day off more important than anything? No judgement here as I’m certain my base can determine how I spent my day.