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Sunday, June 7

Thoughts on D-Day

(A day late, so sue me.)

I was watching the D-Day commemoration from the American cemetery overlooking Coleville-sur-Mer on Saturday, and a thought or two struck me.

First, contrary to one right-wing blowhard, President Obama did not "apologize to the Germans" for our invasion of Festung Europa and eventual victory over the Nazi regime.

Second ...

In the cold gray dawn that day, 160,000 men swarmed over the beaches and parachuted into enemy-held territory. The necessity for their going in was self-evident to them: Nazism was an ideology that was exactly at odds with everything espoused by the Powers arrayed against Hitler. It demanded submission to authority, a stifling of all dissent, a level of hatred directed against The Other.

Nazism was a hateful ideology wedded to the industrial and scientific might of a Great Power, with armies in the millions at its beck and call and a population working hard to keep those armies in the field.

Yet those troops went in, American and British and Canadian and Free French, because they knew that this ideology had to be stamped out.

Which makes me think about our current conflict with yet another ideology.

We faced off back in the 1940s against three Great Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan, in case those reading this may be illiterate), each wielding vast armies and industrial might, and beat each one of them. We then faced off against another ideology, Communism, for nearly a half century and held it off until the greatest state that espoused that ideology collapsed (for various reasons).

In the Second World War, we faced the problem without flinching. In the Cold War, we succumbed - briefly, and in some cases with justification - to paranoia at the possibility of fifth columnists in our midst that could sell us to the Communist powers. But we overcame those challenges without too much damage to our values and ideals.

So why - why, I implore you - are so many in this country so afraid of a few thousand unwashed troublemakers that they're about to soil their pants whenever someone says Boo to them?

I'll grant you, Black Tuesday was horrific, but was it a reason to treat it as the Reichstag Fire and put the screws to our civil liberties? Are we so afraid and weak that we allow ourselves to become the very monsters we seek to destroy?

The lesson I take from D-Day is this:

You can cling to your values, even when you're afraid. You can cling to your values because you're afraid.

But fear is no reason to abandon your values.

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