Did you know that there are only 14 World War I veterans still alive in the United States? And the average age for a surviving combatant in World War II is 85? How long before we forget? Veterans’ Day once upon a time was called Armistice Day, do you know why? Because on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the “war to end all wars” as they used to called it, finally came to a close. WWI was truly the first epic demonstration of the mother of invention, necessity, fiercely colliding with the technology of the industrial revolution. The machine gun, gas, planes, even camouflage were revolutionized by WWI. Also transportation, communication and everything else leapt forward creating a potential for abuse and carnage unimaginable. At a time when cowboys still herded cattle in the west and Samurai still worshipped the art of war in the east, the stage of what was only 100 years earlier colonial Europe exploded in death. They called it the war to end all wars because no one imagined anything could ever be as terrible and surely the eventual end and bloody fallout would ensure in people’s minds for generations never to indulge in the idiotic human notion again. They failed to recognize the true culprit of the war, however.
What fools are men to repeat mistakes so eagerly. In many ways World War II was World War I revisited. The Germans suffered the worst of the world depression even much more than the United States. The European victors of 15 years earlier wanted the Axis powers to pay for their losses both economically and symbolically. Germany didn’t start the first world war and it certainly was not more evil in that war than its counterparts Britain and France; and in many ways Russia was far worse toward humanity during the war. Germany was however the competitor since medieval times and hatred unlike most things does not die with time. So acting as they had for the last 700 years in Europe, the Powers That Be reached down with an iron hand like the kings of old and punished Germany too severely. But in time, one good turn deserves another. Truth be told, it was the fault of the world. The spark began in the Balkans, the “powder keg” as one great man once wrote, but the fuel from the fire that engulfed the entire world came from many, Axis and Allied alike.
Desperate people in Germany suffering worse than others feeling ostracized by the world and its European neighbors especially, grew vulnerable and bitter. A man and a party all too familiar came into focus at this suffering time and spoke of better times and offered targets to cast the people’s burdens. The Nazis showed people who to blame and who to follow and promised to return the glory of a very proud people no matter the cost. The Nazi party was new to the spotlight. They were proud, arrogant and strong … something many Germans had longed for since the end of WWI. For a time the regime made things better for many in Germany, relatively speaking of course, and the average depraved and shameful citizen felt a swell of dignity and strength again. Perhaps this is way when a few years down that dark road they knew they could not go back on, they cast a blind eye to the atrocities that shook the world for a 100 years. History cast a cold eye of judgment, but who among us can not sympathize? The average man and woman trying to provide caught in the middle of something they could not truly understand. It is a sad thing. The world is harsh and life means little to the desperate.
World War II brought to terms the brutality of man. We discovered we could no longer could wage war like we had since the birth of our race. The bomb that killed half a million people never touched the ground. The atomic bomb that killed half a million people could fit in your garage. The world gasped at its creation, not the bomb but the most efficient of nearly all human activity and effort, death. The world grew up that day … or did it? Korea, Vietnam, the middle east, the cold war, terrorism. So far and so few are the remnants of those times.
Fundamentalism is fascism reincarnated, ethnic cleansing is genocide politically correct. 400,000 people have been systematically murdered in the Sudan in the last 2 years; how often do you see that on the news? Christian fundamentalism has been reborn in America. They cast gays out as abominations – let’s just remember that just 80 years ago these people also believed women were the same and fought against more than just their right to vote. These people believe faith is the key to life, not reason. Evolution is blasphemy, homosexuality a sin. Woman are less and religion should govern. They follow the will of “god” and thus override the will of the people. Look to the middle east and see the direction that will lead us. Or if you can imagine a step back in history, think of Germany, its people and leaders.
The new diversity in our government I welcome. No one decision by a government should ever be completely agreed upon. Anyone not willing to discuss their beliefs rationally probably never questioned their beliefs. All beliefs should be questioned and if they are not, then they are not yours. Faith is not an argument, it is accepting ignorance. To say I do not need reason to believe in what I believe in because I am able to believe beyond reason is by definition ignorance. If you choose to believe it anyway at least don’t stand up and tell others too unless you’re willing to discuss it. Our enemy in the free world comes from all countries and all walks of life. The obstacles to freedom are narrow thoughts and absolutisms. Encourage education, be compelled to get out of your comfort zone and learn something; if you are really enlightened learn about something you hate. Try to understand not condemn the world or else like Europe, what we put into the world will be revisited upon us and our children one fateful day.
Remember that freedom of choice has always been paid for with blood; don’t give it up lightly. Today is Veterans’ Day but a long time ago they called it something else. Remember why.