Remembering Remembrance Day

By David T. Jones on January 24, 2016

Washington, DC - Sometimes the best time to remember is after the official commemorations.  The oft-inflated hoopla has ended.  The parades are over.  The rhetorical speechifying is now deleted from media coverage.  In our 24-hour news cycle, if an event receives a day of coverage, that is all that is deemed necessary or deserving.

Thus it was for Remembrance Day 11 November 2015 (and less than a month later the 74th anniversary of the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor received similar minimalistic attention).  

Traditionally, on Remembrance Day, wearing a red poppy of the nature no longer available in normal U.S. outlets, I attended morning ceremonies at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and/or afternoon ceremonies at the Canada-United States memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.  These were conducted with military precision and rigorous attention to ceremony including recitation of “In Flanders Field” and solemn commentary by a senior Embassy official.

This year, however, (besides not receiving a formal invitation from the Embassy) my wife and I were otherwise engaged, and workplace imperatives demanded near term commitment, precluding our presence at the Embassy.

Later, however, on a cool, sunny day, my wife and I, accompanied by long time friends, visited Arlington National Cemetery and examined again the Canadian oblisque commemorating our joint national commitment in World Wars I and II and Korea.  The inscriptions identified the Americans who, eager to fight German aggression in Europe, joined Canadian forces rather than await fibrillating U.S. presidents to enter the war.  The monument stands within a stone’s throw of the Tomb of the Unknowns where a U.S. ceremonial guard stands watch 24/7 and overlooks the tens of thousands of gravestones which constitute the “bivouac of the dead.”

To contemplate the Canadian memorial is to remember history.  It is amazing to note that once Canadians were eager to fight.  Eager to volunteer in the tens of thousands to counter, roll back, and defeat aggression, whether German-Austrian or Nazi-Italian-Japanese starting in 1914 and 1939.  And equally willing to join UN/U.S. forces to throw back North Korean aggression in 1950.  These commitments came from a country with approximately one third the population of contemporary Canada.

There was an appreciation that these were existential challenges worthy of substantial sacrifice.  

The politico-military challenges of the 21st century have been more subtle.  With the exception of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait (which seemed even at the time to be a throwback to antiquity rather than a reflection of modernity), the issues that we have confronted on subsequent Remembrance Days have often been amorphous and vaguely identified.

Today’s terrorists have metastasized.  Remembrance Day 2015 had scarcely passed when ISIS terrorists killed 130 in Paris on November 13.  And that shock had barely subsided when two ISIS-influenced terrorists killed 14 in San Bernardino California on December 2.

Thus we are faced with the prospect that future Remembrance Days, instead of being antiseptic, low-key ceremonies of long-ago conflicts, will be blood-drenched “only yesterday” events.   

We are semi-paralyzed by the prospect of identifying and extracting “real” terrorists from the masses of indifferent innocents who may not actively seek to kill you at home or abroad, but appear quite willing to look the other way when co-religionists do so.  Thus the concern that while seeking to create multi/multi pluralism, our societies are harboring those who seek to destroy these societies; indeed they believe them to be abominations.  

Our most relevant modern case study confuses rather than illuminates.  Japanese-Americans/Canadians rights were clearly abused by incarceration in World War II concentrations, but they volunteered to fight Japan and did so heroically.  The sacrifices they made ended forever any question regarding their loyalty.  There are no recorded incidents where Japanese-American soldiers attacked fellow U.S. soldiers.  In contrast, Muslim-Americans have attacked fellow soldiers, most obviously when in 2009 a Muslim doctor killed 13 and wounded 30 at Fort Hood.

Perhaps some statistics will reinforce the point:  In 1940 there were reportedly 127,000 Japanese in the United States.  During WWII reportedly 33,000 Japanese-Americans served in the armed forces.  

In 2011 approximately 3,500 Muslims were serving in the U.S. Armed Forces; Muslim population in the United States in 2014 was estimated at 6.67 million.

One need not belabor the point to make it.


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