A Day for remembrance and reflection -- Memorial Day
Christopher Hitchens writes a thoughtful column on remembering and honoring those who have fought on the nation's battlefields, in wars past and wars present.
May we all be worthy of such great sacrifices that words are simply inadequate to address.
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In the Cotswold hills, in deep England, there is a pair of villages named Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter. In addition to its rather gruesome name, Lower Slaughter possesses a unique distinction. It is the only village in all of England that does not possess a First World War memorial. In the remainder of the country, even the smallest hamlet will have--I almost said "will boast"--a stone marker with an arresting number of names on it. In bigger towns, it wouldn't be possible to incise all the names in stone, though at the Menin Gate in the Belgian town of Ypres a whole arch is inscribed with the names of those who fell along the Somme. Every year on Nov. 11--anniversary of the 1918 "Armistice"--the rest of the English-speaking world gathers, with Flanders poppies worn in the lapel, to commemorate the dead of all wars but in particular to feel again the still-aching wounds of the "war to end all wars": the barbaric conflict that shook peoples' faith in civilization itself.[...]
"Always think of it: never speak of it." That was the stoic French injunction during the time when the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine had been lost. This resolution might serve us well at the present time, when we are in midconflict with a hideous foe, and when it is too soon to be thinking of memorials to a war not yet won. This Memorial Day, one might think particularly of those of our fallen who also guarded polling-places, opened schools and clinics, and excavated mass graves. They represent the highest form of the citizen, and every man and woman among them was a volunteer. This plain statement requires no further rhetoric.