Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Frenchman crying - June, 1940 
He cries as he watches the German soldiers marching down the Champs Elysees. The glory of France has been ground underfoot by Hitler's goose-stepping legions. In a matter of weeks, the vaunted French army, the Maginot Line, and all of France's pride has been destroyed by the Nazi blitzkrieg. He is a middle-aged man, maybe in his mid Forties. Look at his tears, his tie, his nice suit. He survived World War One and looks like he has since prospered. And now? The night has fallen over France, and soon, all of Europe. He cries for the Twentieth Century. 
(Picture and caption: http://www.acepilots.com)

Lessons from a Museum
My wife and I took our kids to a museum here in town on December 7th a few years ago. While there, we had the good fortune to meet a WW II Navy veteran who had survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We also encountered the famous WW II picture of the Frenchman crying. These two contrasting encounters taught my family a lesson that I want to share with you.

At the beginning of our tour I spied the aging sailor wearing a veteran’s garrison cap emblazoned with the words “Pearl Harbor Survivor.” I crouched down and quickly tutored my children on Pearl Harbor, WW II, and the man’s significance upon that historical landscape. Fortunately, the kids grasped the meaning of the moment and we approached the gentleman. A mellow, unassuming man, he treated our questions with kindness and received our thanks with humility.

At the end of our museum tour we came face to face with the elderly veteran’s polar opposite: the picture of the Frenchman crying. Many of my fellow Americans would probably enjoy hearty anti-French belly laughs at this picture. But I feel only a profound, heart-tugging sadness when I gaze upon that pitiable countenance. This is the face of a people who lacked the will to defend their freedom. This is the face that traded war and its attendant violence for subjugation and humiliation.

I felt just as compelled to introduce my children to the Frenchman crying as I did to the aging hero. I directed my kids’ attention to the picture and asked them to describe it. “He’s crying,” and “That man is sad,” were the answers I got. They could see his distress and wanted to know what had caused it.

I told them this is how you end up when you're unable or unwilling to fight for your freedom. I told them that if they were not prepared to risk their lives for their country, they had better be prepared to stand on the street crying as the conquerors march by. I insisted they study the picture some more, observe the pain on the man’s face, notice the tears running down his cheeks. “Remember that face,” I told them, “and may you never experience his misfortune.”

Reliance on Maginot Lines and international organizations provides a sense of security--up until the inevitable failure of such contrivances. Then, alas, it is back to blood and steel. Sadly, we are all too human after all.

The veteran and the Frenchman stand in stark contrast. Taken together, they remind us of two unyielding truths: The opposite of war is not necessarily peace, and freedom is never free.


Fredd said...

Analogously speaking, the modern day American Left, left to its own devices unfettered, would be the Frenchman before the Nazis marched down their streets. Currently, the Left wants the fine suits, the leisurely brunches at the open air cafes lining the Champs de Elysees. What they don't want is the responsibility that comes with the deal. They don't want to confront tyrants who threaten their freedom to slouch, or to work and save for rainy days, oh no. That would get their dainty French fingers dirty.

The American Left are simpleton children, living the life of Reilly, not caring where the money comes from to pay for their utopian child's play.

When the day of reckoning comes, assuming no grown ups take over and set the ship straight, these child-like Lefties will be lining Main Street, USA, crying like Frenchmen as a harsh reality marches down Main Street much like the Nazis goose stepping down the Champs de Elysees in 1940.

Trestin said...

Some-days I feel like the French man.

Christopher - Conservative Perspective said...

Excellent post and excellent comment by Fredd.

I really have nothing to add after both of your word's except to say just how much we as a nation have completely let down the Greatest Generation.

Silverfiddle said...

Thanks for the kind words, Christopher.

We have indeed let down the greatest generation.

"Virtue begat prosperity, and the daughter killed the mother"
-- Cotton Mather

On the bright side, I think we are seeing a new greatest generation in those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. More importantly, they are coming home and running for office.

Bastiatarian said...

I'll never be comfortable as long as Neville Chamberlain is in the White House.

WomanHonorThyself said...

The opposite of war is not necessarily peace, and freedom is never free. ..bravo Silver.:)

Dixon Webb said...

Hi Silverfiddle . . .

I'm cruising my favorite blogs today and found yours of Dec. 7th. Most of us in the West who remember the war, have a permanent mental picture of crying French wimps. Their military resistance to the Germans in WWII will forever stain their flag. More recently I spent some time there and was made aware of a fairly solid anti-American attitude. I speculated at the time that the entire country is embarrassed - even though it all took place over 60 years ago.

Now, despite all that, I want to put in a good word for the French guys. They were not and are not wimps. They are an entire snooty country of people who believe they are superior beings, and who live in a beautiful European collection of small towns and villages - excepting Paris and Barcelona of course. At the time of their testing years ago, the population was the victim of a sadly inept and incompetent national government. (VICTIMS JUST LIKE AMERICANS ARE TODAY).


Most Rev. Gregori said...

You said: "This is the face of a people who lacked the will to defend their freedom. This is the face that traded war and its attendant violence for subjugation and humiliation."

How very sad, but true. I believe that we are headed toward that same path, Only this time, those putting their boots to our throats will be far worse then the Nazis, and there won't be any brave heroes to come riding in to save us.

Silverfiddle said...

Thank you for stopping by, Old Man (that sounds so disrespectful...)

And Reverend, you are spot on as usual. As a great man once said, we are the last best hope.

Shane Atwell said...

Very powerful post. Helps me to understand better an argument I had with my French wife about Islam.

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