The people who win wars write history or we would never celebrate Columbus Day. If history was written by what few natives who managed to survive the European invasion of what would become known as North, South, and Central America, it wouldn’t be as well received in the classroom as stories of intrepid explorers. The conflict between the European powers and the native people lasted until there were so few natives left that their languages and cultures had all but vanished. Their oral histories had all but been forgotten. Their way of life became a Hollywood movie set remembered quaintly, as if they were a people nearly uncivilized until we came to their rescue. I doubt if they see it that way.
Had Hitler managed to take control of the Soviet Union and harness the vast wealth of resources and manpower the history of the humankind itself would have been rewritten. As terrible and impossible as it may seem in this day and age, I suspect the Jewish religion would have all but ceased to exist but as a shadow of what it is now. It would be looked back at in terms of an ancient people who were exterminated, perhaps it might be written they were wrongly exterminated, but that is history and we humans have a short memory when it comes to history. I suspect as Hitler’s mental health continued to decline he would have killed not millions but tens of millions. But how would Hitler the Victorious be remembered by history in 2011 had he swept through Russia and used that conquered country to fuel the engines of war? Would his face grace currencies and would there be movies about his life and the glory of his triumphs? Would the people who wrote about the actions of the Third Reich gloss over the slaughter of innocents in the name of Manifest Destiny?
History has shown itself to be incredibly kind to those who kill. The Vikings, the predecessors to the Russians, raided, raped, plundered, and took Europe hostage for hundreds of years yet today they are remembered as football mascots with horned helmets and furry clothing. We have Halloween costumes for various historical sets of people who made a good living through murder yet we recoil at the idea of there being a national holiday to celebrate the birth of Hitler, or had he taken over the world, Stalin. Our recent monsters are still monsters. Our past monsters, well, not so much.
It is hard to imagine there being a lesser evil when speaking of Hitler and Stalin, but because Stalin came out on top he became that lesser evil. Hitler would have quickly made peace in Europe to fight the Soviets in 1945, and likely he would have still lost, but how would we view the history of that conflict had we been allies with Hitler? Can you remember who was in charge of Spain when the Incas were slaughtered? Is a leader of a country less evil as time goes on or do the members of the past get some sort of free past because they simply didn’t know any better, as we do now?
Do we? Have we shown any sign of knowing better? Is Africa a safer place because the calendar reads 2011? Is the Middle East a safer place because today is 11-11-11? Is America, a country in two wars in two very different places, any wiser for the times we live in? Are there fewer guns, bullets, and bombs than there were in World War Two? Have we forsaken war for diplomacy because in this modern age we, as a species, are more enlightened then when Andrew Jackson drove the natives from their lands and walked many to death on the way to Oklahoma?
All of what I have written in not so much a plea of pacifism as it is for reason. Many, many, many wars have been fought for all the wrong reasons, and some, like our adventure in Iraq, are fought for little or no reason at all. The war in Rwanda was fought over tribes invent out of whole cloth. The War of Northern Aggression was a war fought blindly by many poor whites, who in victory, would have been poorer still. History, no matter who it is written by, is littered with evil, greed, and hatred being the engines of war regardless of how cool it looks to wear a helmet with horns on it.
Yet when there is a Hitler, or a Stalin, or an attack on Pearl Harbor, there has to be an answer that is more than just words on paper or a really rousing speech in front of a microphone. When there are monsters they must be slain and words, however useful for enlistment purposes, fall away weak at the battlefront. Whenever there is evil it must be face with good. Evil cannot be faced without courage, honor, bravery, and it cannot be faced without sacrifice. This day is set aside to honor those, not who made war, or started war, or planned war, but to those who fought in the wars they were commissioned to fight. In the early days after Pearl Harbor there were many who thought the Japanese unstoppable and nearly supernatural in their fighting abilities. In the early days of World War Two there were many who thought Hitler could not be halted. Yet in America, men lined up to be suited with uniform and handed a rifle. American men piloted ancient and decrepit planes in the early days of that war and they knew, truly knew, they were holding a thin line between victory and defeat. A nation that honors individual freedom can only exist through individual bravery and courage. We saw this in the Revolutionary War. We saw it in the War Of 1812. We saw this in Korea. We saw it in Nam. We’ve seen this trait in those who wear the American uniform in each and every conflict that we have seen fit to send them into, regardless if the cause be just or political. Those who wear the American uniform have never wavered, never broken, and have never lost a military war, ever.
On this day, remember that when we back a war we send these men and women into harm’s way, to be killed perhaps, to kill, certainly, and they have always done more for us than we could ever do for them. By their blood I write this, by their blood you read it, by their blood can I do little more this day than to say in this way, Thank you.