This piece was written by Vaughn Davis Bornet, Ph.D., Cdr (USNR, ret) and was originally published by the History News Network. Bornet was a professional historian who worked for many years at RAND and was a Barracks Officer at Naval Air Station, Alameda during World War II.
So you teach American History for a living, but you have never said “Yes” when asked to deliver an address on Memorial Day?
Can it be that you are fundamentally opposed, that is, allergic, to the very idea? You “wouldn’t be caught dead” rendering such an address, even if paid an honorarium. Time for this writer to find another reader. Without asking how you got in your present mood, I’ll be moving on.
Were the American Revolution, the War Between the States, and World War II “necessary wars?” Oh. You’ve thought of other ways out…! The goals of those gigantic conflicts could have been reached another way? No strain, no pain, no blood, no sacrifice. Especially no time spent fighting. Well, well.
Good for you! You may be a mythologist, a candidate for Ashland, Oregon’s Peace House, with its hardworking choir, its never ending propaganda about obscure individuals of yesteryear whose “solutions” would surely have worked! You can’t be persuaded that Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo were as stereotyped: ardent propagandists, with records of wholesale killings, entranced with forcefully uniting vast numbers of humankind under their freshly laundered banners.
Let’s talk. Can you muster the energy to say something ennobling about Valley Forge? Lincoln? Wilson? (Do try to praise the idea of a League of Nations without mentioning him.) George Marshall? This is going to be harder on you than I thought. We’re talking Memorial Day, a time for praising (somewhat) those who once led us in defense of our homeland, or anyway, who engineered defense against real evildoing.
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