This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Normandy D Day invasion of 1944. It will likely be the last “major” anniversary for which the few remaining brave men who stormed the beaches that cold June morning will be alive.
The Normandy Remembrance (it’s not a celebration) should serve as a reminder to those of us who were too young to remember the courage, commitment and bravery showed by what is historically called “the Greatest generation”. Anyone who has sat through the opening 15 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan” will recall the horror, carnage and bloodshed that were recreated for this movie. I’ve seen quotes from D Day vets who stoically noted that while Director Ron Howard portrayed it fairly accurately, as one veteran remarked “it was the sound of men screaming that wakes me up to this day”.
War has been described as a bunch of old men figuring out new and better ways to kill more young (mostly) men and every generation hopes that it will be the last to send its youth off to die whether at home or on some foreign shore.
Sadly, this is proving not to be the case. With conflict once again growing in the Middle East, nuclear posturing from North Korea and the perennial bickering between India and Pakistan, there are those who think that we may never see the end of armed conflict.
When viewed through the imprecise lens of 75 years, it’s easy to forget why that conflict was necessary. It was in large part because a freely elected Government led by a megalomaniac decided that he wanted to make Germany great again.
The Government of its day convinced its people that it was hard done by the rest of Europe and that previous treaties were unfair and one-sided. The next step was to convince the majority of its people that a free and uncensored press was the enemy of the people.
After that, a scapegoat was needed. Luckily for Hitler and his Nazi party, Jews, homosexuals and gypsies were a convenient and ready target. Lastly, the government convinced a majority of its citizens that being quiet about the persecution of these so-called Enemies of the State was in their best interests.
If any of the above paragraphs sounds familiar, it should. Change a few words around, substitute Mexicans and other immigrants for Jews and gypsies and Germany for some people’s version of “modern” America and it will all sound fatefully familiar.
How ironic then, that the country that supplied so many courageous young men for the purpose of storming the Nazi’s Atlantic Wall now is consumed with building a wall of its own. And equally ironic and tragic that once again, anti-Semitic vandalism is on the rise and right wing hate groups are once again banging their drums of ignorance and hatred.
From the deep recess of the Dark web, these people show no respect for history or decency and spew their bitter vitriol across the planet, demeaning the memories of those who fought against the same hatred.
The soldiers, sailors and airmen from many countries that fought and died on June 6, 1944 and all of World War II fought and sacrificed for a better world and for that, they deserve our undying respect and gratitude.
The very least we can do, other than a moment of silence in our busy lives, is to live and act in a manner that would make them think, if they were able, that their sacrifice on those blood soaked beaches were not in vain.