Saturday, June 7, 2014

Belated Thoughts on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day

A multitude of sources reminded me that I missed the big D-Day anniversary. The fact that I can forget it says something about the men who fought that battle. They spilled their blood to take a foreign shore and in the end they won an America where it's possible to forget their sacrifice and pain. Maybe that's what every warrior fights for, a world that won't remember the need to fight, blissful ignorance. Yet the danger occurs when they succeed for those who forget history's lessons are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

Take the little magazine clipping show above as an illustration of how far we've fallen. This map was published in Life Magazine on June 19, 1944. Just thirteen days after the allies hit the beaches and began hacking their way through the Norman hedgerows a major US magazine was printing maps of the landing sites. Today politicians would dearly love to repeal Freedom of Information Act requests and they routinely try to redact and classify any and all information about military and intelligence operations. Whether you agree with what he did or not, Snowden showed us just how far an unchecked government agency is willing to go for "the safety of the state". Every year it seems like the America I love becomes a little more like all those countries we used to fear. Our government has tried to okay torture, they've made peace with indefinitely detaining suspects without charging them, they maintain off-shore black sites where they can get away with whatever they please, they eavesdrop on our electronic communications, and they practice remote-controlled "targeted killings". In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."

Yesterday while enjoying my lunch in the shade of a tree I looked up to see a lone Wildcat fighter noisily making circuits in the clear, Indiana noontime sky and that familiar sense of nostalgia overtook me. There was a day when "over there" was much further away, when our government was a body of consensus albeit a fractious one, a time when things moved slower and didn't travel half as fast. It was a time before I was born, but somehow I still miss it. So on this belated 75th anniversary of D-Day I'd like to apologize to the brave men who faced its dangers, I fear we've squandered what you won, but I keep in my heart the hope that someday we'll reclaim it and renew your pride.

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