Happy Saturday Bloggers! I would like to personally honor the men and women who fought and served on D-Day to help liberate Europe 65 years ago today. I believe that we owe our freedom and our nation's survival to each and every one of them, and so I too honor their esteemed full measure of bravery and self-sacrifice.
President Obama delivered another eye-watering speech, this time at the American Memorial at Omaha Beach in France. Once again, he spoke eloquently about sacrifice and history, and his words were poignant and powerful in the way they honored the heroes of D-Day. We should remember those killed in battle, those who died since, and those who survive today. I hope you join me in honoring them all.
World War II, symbolized so well by important events like D-Day, was a critical time in our history for so many reasons. The biggest, and most obvious, was the battle to defeat global fascism - or what I like to call the far right gone mad! Most historians agree that World War II represented a new beginning in American history.
America Before World War II
It's important to put it all into perspective, so I hope you don't mind if I go on a little historical rant for a brief time. I hope you can bear with me. :)
Our nation survived numerous conflicts up until that period, but most were political wars involving land acquisition. Think about it, except for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 involving our fight for freedom against the English Crown, the Indian, Mexican, Civil, Spanish-American, First World and Second Iraq Wars were all based on either manifest destiny and/or commerce. I admit I consider the Vietnam, First Iraq and Afghan conflicts unique, and too complicated for this one essay.
However, it's valid to point out, and plausible to assert, that Bush's Second Iraq War was similar to many of those 19th century wars. They were all fought to assure American hegemony and were - for the most part - wars of choice. Wow, it's weird to say, but it seems true.
Unless you prove me wrong, and I admit I'm no historian, it seems to me that America has fought many "wars of choice." Though most manifest-destiny-motivated-American-patriots would dispute that assertion, I don't see why I can't make it.
America didn't have to go West. The North didn't have to fight the South. America didn't have to help Europe despite submarines torpedoing our ships. We could have played it safe and sound, like so many countries. Instead, we were aggressive, the aggressors, and that aggression is part and parcel of who we are today - the land of the free and home of the brave.
Unlike Bush's contemptuous Iraq War, the 19th century represented the aggression of a different time, when men fought over land they perceived to be empty and available. The Atlantic kept them safe from the reach of European monarchies, so they benefited from over a hundred years of freedom to grab/steal land from the indigenous Native Americans, as well as the weaker Spanish/Mexican settlers. Except for a few infamous battles like Little Big Horn or The Alamo, most offered limited resistance.
Oceans and technology (the Winchester rifle, the Gatling Gun and the Iron Horse) kept us rich and safe for decades. Europe was nothing but a collection of outdated empires to us, whose kings and queens were forced to squabble over their own, less well-endowed properties. America grew into a fertile, cocky state, filled with over-confidence and a well-earned sense of complacency.
As time went by, unfortunately for us, the ultimate destruction of those European empires after the Great War led to very dark times. Except for a few places in Europe like Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg and Switzerland, the power vacuum left after the collapse of royalty was filled with the worst elements of society. Evil men powered by lies led to abuse of power and ultimately to genocide - Kurds, Armenians, Romany, Jews and others.
Power-hungry fanatics rose to power. Men like Hitler of Germany, Mussolini of Italy, Tojo of Japan, Franco of Spain, Salazar of Portugal, Antonescu of Romania, and Horthy of Hungary. Even the populist ideals of Marx and the communist revolution in Russia stalled and failed, sadly replaced by evil men like Stalin and one-party dictatorship.
It started to become clear that the militaristic/fascist leaders of the day were clearly right-wing ideologues hell-bent on using government to enrich themselves while imposing their own religious, political and societal beliefs on their citizens.
American Response to Global Extremism/World War II
So, after that little verbal tirade, I return to my original point that World War II was very different. It was the first modern war fought over our very survival, when Americans had to finally face what was happening in the rest of the world - and defeat it!
World War II forced us all to stand together, face our fears, and after Pearl Harbor, enlist in a struggle that threatened to destroy everything we believed in. I've heard that everything seemed more complex and dangerous after Pearl Harbor. Most older folks say it was more powerful than 9/11 is today. That should offer some perspective.
Unfortunately, defeating fear and fascism was easier said than done at the time. Few Americans today realize just how great the threat of fascism was in the world of the mid-20th century, and that includes fascists within our own borders. It's true, the fascist threat existed within our own homeland.
It's fascinating to look back at how easily fascists flew under the radar (although not yet invented), and were often considered fashionable among wealthier circles. Both covert and overt Nazis could be found across America. That alone is different compared to today, since Muslim extremists are usually not your next door neighbor, or party leader.
Republicans and the American Extremists
Even though the right will accuse me of being malicious, history shows us the Republican Party was the home of most Nazi sympathizers within America. American fascists and anti-Semites were quite at home within Republican ranks. Despite what Limbaugh and Hannity say, I think they are still, since most of the pro-Israeli GOP are merely Christians who see the Holy Land as a means to an end. We Democrats were unfortunately plagued by the far less competent Communists - and they were the ones too stupid to realize that Marx's dream of a worker's paradise died with Marx.
So, what might have unfolded if D-Day failed? It's entirely possible the Third Reich would have outlived Roosevelt and Churchill, while the GOP may have sued for peace, ultimately selling the nation out to fascists based on extremist pressures and bigoted propaganda. Hey, it's a reasonable theory, when you consider the way they tick!
It would have taken so many years to rebuild another force of such magnitude (thousands of ships and airplanes along with hundreds of thousands/millions of combat troops), and in that time it's highly likely that right-wing forces would have taken over in Great Britain and America.
Men like Charles Lindbergh, Burton Wheeler, Joseph Kennedy, and the now infamous Prescott Bush (yes, George's grandfather) all argued against fighting the Nazis, and sought to defeat Roosevelt and the Democrats - all hoping to sue for peace with the despots. Look it up! It's true!
It's a fact that Republicans received campaign contributions at the time from Hitler and the Nazis, while corporate and political leaders from General Motors and many other great American corporations met with leading fascists of the time (led by Baron Manfred von Killinger). Of course, most Republicans today would deny their history.
Of course it all changed when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor - weird, but it really did wake a sleeping giant. That boosted American solidarity and was directly responsible for silencing American fascism and the far right movement of the 1930s and early 1940s. That attack, not unlike 9/11 today, powered the American public to defeat extremism. It also washed away most of the self-satisfaction and self-reliance that America wrapped itself in since the 19th century.
Of course, World War II - and D-Day - are now proud moments etched in our collective consciousness. Roosevelt, Truman, MacArthur and others were shining examples of how to fight a war, as well as how to win the hearts and minds of the enemy. Unlike today, they stressed the highest ideals of our nation, and with the exception of Japanese internment camps, did everything they could to hold America up as a light of freedom and decency to the world.
I would go so far as to compare their actions to the late 1700s and George Washington. They had a depth of spirit and humility we often credit to our founding fathers. They too struggled against seemingly insurmountable odds, and faced the prospect of death in the cause of freedom.
Reflection and Perspective
Unfortunately, despite what the GOP and Bush supporters believe, history will judge our most recent actions harshly. It's now clear through real evidence that America abandoned most of its core principles under today's GOP. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their Republican supporters should feel ashamed of themselves, but for unknown reasons they do not. Sadly, our nation's response to 9/11 will go down as a very dark period in our history.
So, once again, if D-Day had failed, it's entirely possible that Europe may have remained fascist, and it may have ultimately spread to Great Britain and America. You could make a very good case that D-Day's success is the main reason why you're able to read these words right now. You could make a very good case that D-Day is the reason why we are now free.
So, if that is the case, today is a very important day. In some ways it's as important as July 4th, since it guaranteed our very independence. Therefore, I would like to say THANK YOU once again to all the men and woman who served to make D-Day possible. For those in my family who served (mostly uncles), I would like to send you guys special thanks and warm regards! You are all American heroes, and for all intents and purposes, you deserve the distinction as "America's Greatest Generation."
Saturday's D-Day 2009 Political Rave - Michael