Remember the Fallen

Unlike our British cousins we Americans honor the veterans of our armed forces twice a year.  On Veterans Day we honor the service of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guard.  But on Memorial Day we honor the Fallen. 

In many parts of the nation communities still call it Decoration Day, the day to decorate the graves of those who gave their lives that we might live in freedom.  In honoring the Fallen and declaring every year that we will never forget them we renew the contract between the generations about which the First Conservative, Edmund Burke, wrote in his Reflections on the Revolution in France.  He wrote:

Society is indeed a contract... As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are to be born.

It was Burke who made explicit what was formerly practiced un-selfconsciously: the need to venerate the dead upon whose shoulders we are raised, and to pass our inheritance on to the unborn in whom we transcend our mortality. 

But those whose lives are cut short that we might live occupy a special place in our memory, and there is a good reason why this should be so.

All self-respecting states are created out of a civil war.  That means of course that every nation was created in a spasm of violence, where competing interests fought for power and the losers were at least humiliated and at worst eliminated.

In the aftermath, the victors want to forget the ugly realities of the fight, and they need to forget the appalling cost. The US Civil War was a typical instance, with incompetent leadership, a troubling peace faction of Copperheads and Democrats, and a victory procured, in the end, only with the blood-drenched ruthlessness of Grant and Sherman.  The 625,000 war dead amounted to about two percent of the 1860 census population of 31 million and 3.75 percent of all males (including children).

There is only one thing to do, and that is to declare that it was all worth it, and that the dead are fallen heroes.  We remember the dead from the Civil War, the doughboys of World War I, and the GIs of World War II.

When it came to the Vietnam War, our liberal friends decided that they didn't want to honor the returning veterans or the 58,000 who died.  If the war was a crime then it was easy to think of our soldiers as war criminals.  This was a mistake on several levels, not least of which was the practical problem that ever since it has raised a question mark over the patriotism of Democratic presidential candidates.  It does not get resolved by having a presidential candidate begin his acceptance speech with the words: "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty."

The same question mark hovers over radical revisionism like Howard Zinn's Peoples' History of the United States.  If the history of the US is one endless tale of oppression, then what's the point?  Why go on?  Why not just treat life as a lifestyle? 

Some people might come away from Zinn's History with the notion that the story of radical politics in the US is one endlessly repeated story of radical suits leading the "poor, uneducated, and easily led" off a cliff.

If you think back, you can see that our Democratic friends have no problem celebrating Democratic victories.  They are happy to celebrate beating the Kaiser,with President Wilson (D), commander-in-chief.  They are glad to remember the Greatest Generation that demolished Nazism with President Roosevelt (D), commander-in-chief.  What they don't like are wars in which Democrats don't have the starring roles.

We know why this is so.  It is because our liberal friends don't believe in nation states.  They are cosmopolitans, citizens of the universe, and they are ready to move on from national loyalty to planetary loyalty.  They believe that if political power were transferred from national governments to supranational governments we could hope for peace.

They are wrong, of course, deluded by their narrow Enlightenment faith in reason.

Reason is a wonderful thing when taken in moderation. But it does not reason away the reality of the struggle for existence in a dangerous world.  In a dangerous world you need armed forces, and you need young men to give their lives in the struggle of good against evil.

When we celebrate our great national holidays, and particularly when we observe the holidays that honor our veterans there really is only one option.  Honor the Fallen.  To do anything less is not just a crime, it is a blunder.


Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his roadtothemiddleclass.com and usgovernmentspending.comHis Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.
Unlike our British cousins we Americans honor the veterans of our armed forces twice a year.  On Veterans Day we honor the service of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guard.  But on Memorial Day we honor the Fallen. 

In many parts of the nation communities still call it Decoration Day, the day to decorate the graves of those who gave their lives that we might live in freedom.  In honoring the Fallen and declaring every year that we will never forget them we renew the contract between the generations about which the First Conservative, Edmund Burke, wrote in his Reflections on the Revolution in France.  He wrote:

Society is indeed a contract... As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are to be born.

It was Burke who made explicit what was formerly practiced un-selfconsciously: the need to venerate the dead upon whose shoulders we are raised, and to pass our inheritance on to the unborn in whom we transcend our mortality. 

But those whose lives are cut short that we might live occupy a special place in our memory, and there is a good reason why this should be so.

All self-respecting states are created out of a civil war.  That means of course that every nation was created in a spasm of violence, where competing interests fought for power and the losers were at least humiliated and at worst eliminated.

In the aftermath, the victors want to forget the ugly realities of the fight, and they need to forget the appalling cost. The US Civil War was a typical instance, with incompetent leadership, a troubling peace faction of Copperheads and Democrats, and a victory procured, in the end, only with the blood-drenched ruthlessness of Grant and Sherman.  The 625,000 war dead amounted to about two percent of the 1860 census population of 31 million and 3.75 percent of all males (including children).

There is only one thing to do, and that is to declare that it was all worth it, and that the dead are fallen heroes.  We remember the dead from the Civil War, the doughboys of World War I, and the GIs of World War II.

When it came to the Vietnam War, our liberal friends decided that they didn't want to honor the returning veterans or the 58,000 who died.  If the war was a crime then it was easy to think of our soldiers as war criminals.  This was a mistake on several levels, not least of which was the practical problem that ever since it has raised a question mark over the patriotism of Democratic presidential candidates.  It does not get resolved by having a presidential candidate begin his acceptance speech with the words: "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty."

The same question mark hovers over radical revisionism like Howard Zinn's Peoples' History of the United States.  If the history of the US is one endless tale of oppression, then what's the point?  Why go on?  Why not just treat life as a lifestyle? 

Some people might come away from Zinn's History with the notion that the story of radical politics in the US is one endlessly repeated story of radical suits leading the "poor, uneducated, and easily led" off a cliff.

If you think back, you can see that our Democratic friends have no problem celebrating Democratic victories.  They are happy to celebrate beating the Kaiser,with President Wilson (D), commander-in-chief.  They are glad to remember the Greatest Generation that demolished Nazism with President Roosevelt (D), commander-in-chief.  What they don't like are wars in which Democrats don't have the starring roles.

We know why this is so.  It is because our liberal friends don't believe in nation states.  They are cosmopolitans, citizens of the universe, and they are ready to move on from national loyalty to planetary loyalty.  They believe that if political power were transferred from national governments to supranational governments we could hope for peace.

They are wrong, of course, deluded by their narrow Enlightenment faith in reason.

Reason is a wonderful thing when taken in moderation. But it does not reason away the reality of the struggle for existence in a dangerous world.  In a dangerous world you need armed forces, and you need young men to give their lives in the struggle of good against evil.

When we celebrate our great national holidays, and particularly when we observe the holidays that honor our veterans there really is only one option.  Honor the Fallen.  To do anything less is not just a crime, it is a blunder.


Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his roadtothemiddleclass.com and usgovernmentspending.comHis Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.