Friday, June 6, 2008

A Day of Remembrance

As another non-monumental (not being a 20th, 40th, or 60th anniversary) D-Day comes and goes, there should be relatively little surprise that the day went generally unnoticed. It dominates the headlines when it's a big year like the 60th anniversary but not the 64th. Maybe next year.

The day does, however, seem a little different this year. With recent books, notably Pat Buchanan's "Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War" and Nicholson Baker's "Human Smoke," there is an air of revisionism regarding the Second World War, America's Holy War. These books have already received a wave of criticism and even hatred for daring to question some of the justifications and actions of the Allied nations during the "Good War." New interpretations of past events are good for history and great for historical discussions. Chewing over a supposedly closed case, World War II, is good for the mind, but more importantly it keeps us from deifying the mortal men who participated in the events.

The D-Day invasion was the most daring amphibious assault in military history. Opening up a second front in the great European war guaranteed the eventual defeat of Hitler. Calais, France was the most narrow point of the English Channel and the obvious place for a landing. Normandy was selected instead, increasing the element of surprise. While not an overwhelming and completely one-sided victory, it was successful enough for the Allies to gain a foothold on Western Europe. 11 months later, Hitler was dead and the war in Europe was over.

I make this appeal on this D-Day anniversary because I fear that many people still confuse criticism of the leaders of nations involved with animosity toward the troops themselves. That millions of young men fought heroically for their respective countries is really beyond dispute. They were millions who demonstrated bravery and courage many of us cannot imagine. And those who honorably served deserve respect everyday, not only on D-Day, Pearl Harbor Day, or Memorial Day.

I write this day because the day itself is far too politicized, even when it is barely recognized.

Elitist liberals from John Kerry to Barack Obama criticize our country's Republican leadership and condescend the troops themselves. Republicans and self-described conservatives insist the leadership is beyond question and that criticism of the administration is tantamount to treason. Meanwhile, both groups don flag lapel pins and "Support the Troops" paraphernalia, which are themselves acts of condescension. Republicans regularly use the troops as a shield against criticism while they fund a war that bankrupts the country. Democrats condescend and disparage the military coming and going. Republicans invoke patriotism against war critics and behave in a way that suggests that enthusiasm for the war in Iraq corresponds with loyalty to the state. Not even all soldiers agree on the war. Some support it and others don't. But all honorable soldiers do the calling of a soldier: their duty.

So, I say that today we should be thankful for the service rendered by our troops, those who have answered the call. But don't politicize it, Left or Right. Deriding the military from the Left is just as disgraceful as the Right when they use the troops as their litmus test for patriotism. D-Day was the beginning of the liberation of Western Europe and a turning point of the bloodiest war in history. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.

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