Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.” – Winston Churchill
Memorial Day is a day to honor all those who gave their lives for this country and for the freedoms for which it stands. But it’s those who served in WWII who are particularly on my mind today. Not only because my dad was a WWII vet (who, thankfully, did not die in combat) and a career serviceman, but also because, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, if the United States were to last for a thousand years, in many ways, I would have to believe WWII was its finest hour.
Many fine men and women have given their lives for America since that time, but WWII was the last war that most all Americans would agree was fought for the right reasons. The United States has never been a perfect nation – in a fallen world, no nation could be. But America has aspired to be a haven of freedom in the world – a testament to which are the millions of people who have emigrated to America over its 200 plus-year history – and victory in WWII was absolutely necessary to maintaining that freedom.
The WWII generation, however, may have been the last generation to really believe in that aspiration, to believe that America really was the land of the free. The generation that followed, the baby boomers – my generation – for reasons both justified and unjustified, began to see America not as the “land of the free” but as “the land of the oppressed.”
Today, despite the achievements of the Civil Rights movement and the immigrants who continue to pour into this country – both legally and illegally – in the hopes of finding a better life, the narrative of America the oppressive persists and grows, and victim groups multiply. To rectify these purported injustices, and in the name of tolerance, the fundamental freedoms the WWII generation fought to preserve – freedom of speech and religion, in particular – are being steadily consumed by freedoms no one of their era could have ever foreseen.
On this Memorial Day, I have to wonder if the men (and it was mostly men) who endured the unspeakable horrors of WWII and gave their lives for this country more than 70 years ago would think that the angry, polarized America their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have inherited was worth the terrible price they paid.