Monday, May 31, 2004

I realized, just the other days, that Normandy was sixty years ago.

The beginning of the end for Hitler (in the West) was sixty years ago. Hitler has been dead (or in Argentina) for almost sixty years. Japan has been without an expeditionary military for almost sixty years.

Think about that for a second: The war that is still the touchstone for everyone when they think of war, the baby boomers notwithstanding, was two to three full generations ago.

The men who stormed Omaha, Juno, and all the rest, and lived, are dying very quickly now. They came back, usually voted for Democrats, raised a bunch of spoiled brats, and grumbled about health benefits for thirty years; they came back, worked their tails off, rarely ran around beating their chests about how heroic they'd been, and never once suggested that America had fought in the Pacific out of racism or imperialism.

Both of my grandfathers served in the Pacific. I was never very close to my maternal grandfather, but neither talked much about it: They simply went out, did their jobs, and returned home. The net effect -- combined with the efforts of millions like them -- was to stamp out right-wing tyranny in the Pacific, and hybridized left/right tyranny in Europe. It's not their fault that we lacked the will to kill off the left-wing tyranny in Asia and Europe on their watch.

Billions of humans are better off for their efforts. Billions more will live and die, wanting, laughing, needing, crying, loving, marrying, reproducing, mourning, praying, without once looking over their shoulders for the dark shadows that love to kill freedom.

The men five years after fought to keep the slow shadow of communism from bringing even more under its long night; it's not their fault that the people they saved have grown soft under the blanket of security they provided.

The men twenty years before them fought in a meat grinder, over some stupid European kerfluffle that should never have been; but without them, there would not be an England. And a France, but again, that's not their fault.

The men sixty years before that fought to preserve the idea of Union. They died by the tens of thousands on beautiful landscapes, near verdant forests and running streams, broad plains and the foothills of mountains. They fought so that government by the people would not perish. They fought -- perhaps incidentally, but bless them for it -- so that some day, all Men would be free.

The men twenty years before that fought so that Texas would remain part of the Union, and ten years before that, so that a petty dictator would not trample the rights of free men and women.

The men fifty years before that fought for the idea that government flows from the people; and that absent their consent, there is no government. We owe them boundless thanks for their pledge of their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor; and we owe them an understanding of what it means to pledge those things.

You'll note that I have not referenced any war after Korea. That is because I must segregate:

The men who fought bravely in Vietnam; Grenada; Panama; Kuwait; Somalia; Bosnia; Kosovo; Afghanistan; and Iraq: We owe them our thanks on our knees. They fought when others spurned the words "honor," and "duty"; they fought when it was harder than ever to do so, as so many spit at them for having the unmitigated gall to believe in the American idea, and that it was worth fighting for; they fought for us, and, in some senses, the world.

The men and women who spit at them: We owe them nothing. The men who fought, then came back to spit at the men fighting: We owe them less.

To all the men (and, sadly, now women) who have died for this great Nation: God keep you; God bless; and, from our hearts: Thank you.