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A Date which will Live in Infamy

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Silverfiddle Rant!
I wrote this years ago to commemorate Pearl Harbor day.  The chances of our nation being attacked militarily now is almost nil.  An ignorant and debased nation of people easily propagandized is vulnerable to a variety of more subtle, non-violent attacks. Nonetheless, the lesson still applies.
My wife and I took our kids to a museum here in town on December 7th a few years ago. While there, we had the good fortune to meet a WW II Navy veteran who had survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We also encountered the famous WW II picture of the Frenchman crying. These two contrasting encounters taught my family a lesson that I want to share with you.
At the beginning of our tour I spied the aging sailor wearing a veteran’s garrison cap emblazoned with the words “Pearl Harbor Survivor.” I crouched down and quickly tutored my children on the man’s significance upon that historical landscape. Fortunately, the kids grasped the meaning of the moment and we approached the gentleman. A mellow, unassuming man, he treated our questions with kindness and received our thanks with humility.

At the end of our museum tour we came face to face with the elderly veteran’s polar opposite: the picture of the Frenchman crying. Many of my fellow Americans would probably enjoy hearty anti-French belly laughs at this picture, but I feel only sadness.  This is the face of  people everywhere who lack the means or the will to defend their freedoms. This is the face that trades death and destruction for subjugation and humiliation.

I felt just as compelled to introduce my children to the Frenchman crying as I did to the aging hero. I directed my kids’ attention to the picture and asked them to describe it. “He’s crying,” and “That man is sad,” were the answers I got. They could see his distress and wanted to know what had caused it.
I told them this is how you end up when you’re unable or unwilling to fight for your freedom. I told them that if they were not prepared to risk their lives for their country, they had better be prepared to stand on the street crying as the conquerors march by. I insisted they study the picture some more, observe the pain on the man’s face, notice the tears running down his cheeks. “Remember that face,” I told them, “and may that never be you.”
Reliance on Maginot Lines and international organizations provides a sense of security–up until the inevitable failure of such contrivances. Then, alas, it is back to blood and steel. Sadly, we are all too human after all.

The veteran and the Frenchman stand in stark contrast. Taken together, they remind us of two unyielding truths: The opposite of war is not necessarily peace, and freedom is never free.

As of September 2020, “according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 325,574 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2020.” (National WW II Museum)


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