(SNN) - Bertrand Russell once said that, “War does not determine who is right - only who is left”, and with those cold words one is left with a chilling proposition; ‘Good does not always prevail over evil.’ Sobering thoughts because modern society is indoctrinated to believe that when faced with true evil, good will prevail.
This indoctrination takes place through pop media. We see it in our movies, Saturday morning cartoons, and pulp fiction. Every action hero of the silver screen who fights the bad guys, in the end, either walks off into a lonely sunset secure in the belief that everyone who witnessed the action are pumped for the next sequel, or, they get the girl, while the villain lies vanquished.
Four generations have passed since World War II, and another since The Great War, and in this country where military service is optional, many people today just don’t have the appreciation or the understanding of what the foot soldier has given them.
Jane Fonda, the half naked “Barbarella” of the 60’s and daughter to Henry Fonda, was only a child when World War II broke out. She lived through the threat of Nazi expansionism and the threat that Hitler and the death camps promised. But even though she had the opportunity to at least read and see in “Film Reels” these threats, she rallied her celebrity status to openly denounce not only the wars of the day, but also the individual soldiers fighting. In an open rally she is quoted as saying, "If you understood what Communism was, you would hope, you would pray on your knees that one day we would become Communist.” Later, she would regret many things she said in the face of veterans. She asked for forgiveness when she said, "It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless." Today at 76 years-old she speaks a different tune, "When you can't remember why you're hurt, that's when you're healed." But the influences of like-minded individuals and the softening of the society has a way of diminishing or even trivializing what the war veteran means to society.
And there you have it! As Fonda said,“When you can’t remember why you’re hurt.” This is precisely why we must don the poppy and take at least a day out and gather in remembrance.
Many people do not remember the fear of a world at war, and for that matter my generation does not live with that memory. Only recently with our Canadian military having fought in Afghanistan, do some families feel the effect of war, but the consequences of a military failure today have not been made very clear to each Canadian.
The veteran whose failure would have had dire consequences has either been killed in action, lived out his life, or is languishing in a nursing home. Very few people even take the time to ponder an alternate history, where men and nations run by despots would have won the largest military conflict the world has ever seen.
There were many villains in the theater of World War II. Our foot soldiers fought longer and harder than their American counterparts since that country stayed neutral for the first three years of the conflict. By the time the Americans woke up to reality and joined the Allies, Germany's expansionism and doctrine of hate had spread to neighbouring nations; their sights clearly aimed at England and their submarines patrolled off the coast of Newfoundland. Everywhere they went, they gathered citizens and interned them to labour or death camps. And, it was our foot soldiers who were fighting and dying in battles slowing the progress of Nazi policy that was being executed by the Wehrmacht.
Time was not on the foot soldiers' side, and every man that jumped out of an airplane, or landed on a beach knew that they were running headlong into their doom. To say that the foot-soldier does not feel fear is naive. They were put into a situation where they had to overcome their fears with a sense of purpose and duty. War is not glamorous; for when a mother nurses her baby, she looks lovingly into the child's eyes with no knowledge that in a short 18 years that same child would be fighting for his life and the livelihood of people he had never met.
The war veteran is just that. Someone's son, grandson, father or grandfather. The war veteran is a person who has given so much and yet was given so very little. The war veteran is the soldier who made it home, while they live with the memories of their friends calling out to them from the mist of a battlefield in agony. They live with the understanding that when they left for war as an innocent teenager, they came back only a few years later with their innocence ripped from their soul.
So when you see a senior citizen pushed in a wheelchair dressed in his uniform, remember not only his sacrifice, but what that veteran has tucked away in his mind. When you shake his hand and thank him for giving us this soft life, remember that in order to do that, the veteran had to shake off all that made him human and become something that his own mother didn't even see. For in the end, the war could have been lost; for war does not determine who is right - only who is left.
ALSO SEE: Editorial - Will You Die for Me?
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