is upon us. I have always felt a special connection what has been termed “the great generation”, a haunting connection that has often made me feel slightly out-of-place in my own time period. It is sometimes hard for me to believe that all the WWII vets are dying out, and that it is now 70 years since the largest amphibious landing assault in history. Didn’t all this just happen a few years ago?
The death of my grandmother sort of brought home the reality that time is moving swiftly. For much of my young life, I was used to regarding the elderly as ever-present sources of wisdom in some sort of perpetual golden age. I got along better with the older members of my extended family than the younger ones. They had a better perspective on things. They could remember things like The Great Depression and WWII, and seemed to be beyond some of crazy pop fads of modernity.
As the African proverb relates, “When an old man dies, a library burns down.” Thus is the case now, with so many of those time-worn, time-taught elderly members of our community slipping away, mentally and then physically. It is a melancholy reality, which leaves us with an even greater responsibility to preserve their legacy, learn from the lessons they taught us, and pray for their immortal souls.
At D-Day, they literally “saved the world”. There is so much to take away from this, that an evil regime can be conquered, that the unity of nations in a just cause can be achieved, that unity within individual nations (I’m speaking of The United Kingdom in particular) is a worthy goal, that sacrifice is often necessary to bring about a greater good, that the human spirit can triumph darkest hours, and most importantly, that there is a providence that guides the fate of battle.
This seems an appropriate day to take up the subject of war, the pros and cons and in betweens of it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately since I started listening to more music from the old “folkies” such as Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Bob Dillon, and Joan Baez. There seems to have been an explosion of folk-consciousness since Pete passed into eternity, some of which I understand and some of which I heartily disagree with. Their music may have been nice in that it brought back the olden ballads to 20th century audiences and made them popular again, but “social activism” varied from admirable to imbecilic in many quarters.
And they were all ostensibly “anti-war”. In this, I think many of them missed a beat. The fact is that we do not live in a perfect world, and armed conflict is an inextricable part of the human experience. It is horrible, but it is true. For much of history, wars were blatantly fought for land rights and many peoples thrived as a warrior class. Is this the best way to live? Probably not, but I would not haughtily judge past generations for it. Within those wars and conflicts, humanity actually developed in ways it never would have. Courage and sacrifice, mercy and forgiveness, all played a part in the midst of the worst kind of travails.
Naturally, I agree that wars should be avoided if they can be, that it is indeed hellish. But to presume that we have all the answers to create everlasting peace on earth is simply simplistic. We must strive for peace daily, but also prepare for combat on every level. I think most would agree that WWII can safely be called a “just war”, even by modern standards. The Allies weren’t perfect in all they did, but The Axis regime was another matter entirely. The evil had to be stopped, and war was the only way of doing it. So in that sense, thank God for the wars! Or have we come to glorify the battles we will not fight and the souls we will not save and the prayers we will not say? Is it only “live and let live”? It is all a modern phenomena in a culture of despair.
Borrowed from Elizabeth’s lovely blog “One Light in a Dark World”, I leave you with the address of Gen. Eisenhower to his troops, June 6th, 1944:
“Soldiers, Sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark on upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The united Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
|"Good Luck!" -- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower|