What a Statue Told Me
In The American Cemetery At Normandy
Has Our Comfort Led To Complacency?
I am troubled. Here I sit in the comfort of my own home, safe, unworried...and I am troubled by the fact that my comfort is not universal, that untold millions suffer on this Earth, and that suffering is because an equal number do not care. Having traveled completely around the world more than once, I have seen poverty, sickness, disease, sorrow such as most here in America will never experience. Oh, of a surety, there have been many joys along that road, smiling faces of those who have something to be thankful for, but what I found is that sorrow is universal, that evil people know no bounds and are not limited to any nationality. But, I always felt somehow safer when I got home to the U.S., because in my beloved country, we had laws to prevent evil people from rising to power, and we had a social consciousness that made us try to help those in need. America has, for all of my life, been “The Great Dream,” the land of promise that so many foreigners dreamed of making their home. But maybe I am living in a dream, maybe it is all make believe, because today I am seeing a rise of evil that so many politicians are afraid to name...for political expediency, they have sold their souls and will not speak out against the rise of an old evil that used to exist only “over there” in the lands where I traveled. In the not too distant past, it reared its ugly head, took millions of lives, then went underground for a while, only to resurface in such places as Bosnia, Rwanda, Syria and other such non-American places. I was safe from this scourge, because I could visit the museums “over there,” gaze pensively at the photos in the museums and wonder how “these” countries could EVER have allowed such barbarisms to flourish...and I could always come home to my beloved America, home of laws, home of respect for each other, land of the FREE! But something seems to have followed me here. Now I wonder if, because we did not do enough here to end suffering, to end hatred, to end bigotry, that because we have turned a blind eye while sitting in the comforts that we each have, a festering cancer has come to claim its dues.
Have We Missed The Road Signs?
The sorrow starts with one man, who, through his own narcissistic goals, must lash out against all those who deny him his misperceived destiny of power and wealth. So, he finds a scapegoat to blame for his “lack,” and he sets about telling others that they, too, deserve more, and they would have more...if only he were in control and the “scapegoat” were out of the way. Adolph Hitler used exactly that same tactic, and it worked. When so many people paid him no mind, because he was just a loser on the fringe, a lunatic with crazy ideas that would NEVER catch on, the cancer that he was metastasized, and he became Chancellor of Germany. The world would never again be the same. Many are still alive who experienced the Holocaust that followed his rise. Even though Hitler was dead by the time I was born, I can still remember hearing his name being spoken with disgust by all those who lived through the horrors of his carnage. There was no one who could find anything glorious about the swastika, Hitler’s misappropriation of an ancient Buddhist religious symbol that now represented his evil empire. Strangely, that disgust began to fade over the years as our own country began to experience the great post-war economic boom. As our comforts grew, we took care of ourselves, slowly forgot about others, and Hitler faded into the ash bin of failed egotists. Of course, there were the books like “The Diary of Anne Frank” that reminded us to cry for the young Jewish girl who died in one of Hitler’s concentration camps, as well as the truly tragic memories recounted by Corrie Ten Boom in her book, “The Hiding Place.” She was erroneously released by the Nazis after her father and sister died in another of Hitler’s hells. The survivors of Hitler’s atrocities were bent on seeing to it that another Hitler never, ever arose again...but they began to die off. Their voices got older and fewer, and those of us who remember them are also getting older and fewer. Thus it is that I sit here in the comfort of my home, and I wonder about this generation that has not heard the voices of the past. Is there a “dues” that we who remember should have been paying all along? Is there more that we could have done to prevent what I am seeing on the television? Instead of constantly enjoying the comforts and safety that our post-war society taught us was our right, have we missed the road sign that says that we have fallen asleep at the wheel?
Anne Frank And Her Tragic Diary
Corrie ten Boom - A Survivor Of The Holocaust
Hitler In America?
When did Hitler rise from the ash bin to which he had been so properly and morally relegated? When did it become fashionable to kiss his ring, to wear his regalia, to fly his flag...with pride? I see these young fools strutting around pretending to know history, when all they know is the face of a madman whom they never met, a tyrant who seems to offer them immortality, power and wealth, all for the taking. It is theirs if they simply act like him, admire him, honor him, and follow him...and our politicians stand by and say nothing, just like they did when Hitler was young and on the ascendancy. You never know your house has termites until the floor falls in. Sometimes, the damage is irreversible, because you did not notice until you were overwhelmed, and our country has become like that proverbial house filled with termites. While we sit in our comforts thinking that sadness and sorrow are “over there,” that such things are the problems of other people, such an opiate has allowed the rise of Nazism and other such bigotries to get dangerously out of control...right here in the safety of America, the land of laws and great social consciousness.
The Cost Of Bigotry
Years ago, I stood in the American cemetery at Normandy. People who go there speak of an eerie sensation of great sadness that comes over one when entering that sacred memorial to lost lives. I thought they were exaggerating, but the minute I set foot inside the parameters of those countless white grave markers, I became overwhelmed to the point that I could not speak. I was numb with sorrow. It was as if the souls of those thousands of young men were still there, haunting the grounds, perhaps fellowshipping with their fellow fallen comrades. It sounds far fetched, but the feeling was not; it was very, very real. As I moved through this mist of sorrow that never left me the entire time I was there, I stared reverently at the countless white stone markers, reading some of the names. Though unknown to me, I read them just the same, as if by doing so, I had shown them some symbol of respect for their immeasurable sacrifices. They had given their lives to stop Hitler, to tear down the Nazi flags, to restore peace, and to end the bloodshed that took millions of lives needlessly. Millions!! And here before me were so many of them…
Looking Out Over Omaha Beach
I walked down to the point above that famous beach where, only a few decades ago, Nazi gun emplacements were shooting directly at my fellow Americans as they landed on Normandy beach. Looking out over the waters, I could see the indescribable past, the ships that had flooded the distant horizon on that fateful day. I could hear the sounds of the guns firing from right where I now stood, bullets that were taking the lives of young men as they landed on the beach below me. I felt somewhat guilty being able to stand there in peace and comfort. What had I sacrificed? I wanted to go down to that beach and look up at this horrible place where Nazis had rained gunfire and death down on my fellow citizens so many years ago. There was a small, well-worn path that led through the underbrush and down from the cliff. I took it. Once on the beach, I looked up and wondered how anyone with his right mind could have left the safety of his landing craft and exposed his body and life on this open beach where nothing was there to protect him from the gunfire coming down from that hill. All these many years later, shrapnel from that day still washed up on that beach, and I reverently picked up several pieces to hold in my hand. Touching these pieces was my only connection to them, these pieces of that battle, shorn off of their armaments, their guns, their ships...and I put them in my pocket so that I would never forget what sorrow brought them into existence. I still have them.
In That Sacred Normandy Cemetery
After walking the beach for a long while, pondering often the cliffs above and trying to imagine myself in the place of so many of those who died here, right here, I quietly went back up to the cemetery. Occasionally, the sound of meditative chimes and bells would play, as if to entertain the souls of those young soldiers who still lingered there, who did not know that they had passed from this life to the plane of existence beyond this one. I knew that this music played for them. It was not for me. I was merely a visitor here, someone who would be able to go home, to the comfort of my safe home in America and sit on my sofa and relax when I wanted to. No, this music was not for me. How selfish for anyone visiting here to think such stupidly selfish thoughts. No matter who you are, if you are in that cemetery in Normandy, when that beautiful music begins to play, you stop, you stand still, and you find that you cannot speak, because there is a lump in your throat that will not allow you. If you open your mouth, you will give in and cry. I listened to the strains of otherworldly chimes and did not speak. This music was for them. They died here, and they were still here...listening.
When the music finished, I found that I could move again, and I wandered silently over to a monument where a reflecting pool leads up to a larger-than-life, bronze statue of a young man. The statue represents a young soldier who has apparently just been killed during this war. The shirt has been torn away from his body by the blast, his expression is one of shock, of confusion, and it is also one of non-acceptance to his fate. He has seen others die all around him that day, and he is filled with fear, unspeakable and terrifying fear, hoping that he would be one who made it home. He is looking heavenward, his youthful hand outstretched as if to take the hand of an angel that has reached out to him...and his body will never see his welcoming home in America ever again. Here is where he lies, forever a memorial to those who fought against the Nazis. He, along with millions of others, was part of the “dues” required by Madness before He would give them Hitler and leave the land. Madness does not die, he just goes away for a while, sleeps in a cave somewhere, and awakens to demand another “fare” when it strikes His fancy.
Words From A Statue
I stood at the base of that statue, and as I pondered all that it meant to me, I was taken from my reverie by a group of French school kids who recognized my tourist attire as being decidedly American, and they asked me what the words were at the base of that marvelous statue and what they meant. I looked down, and it was nearly impossible for me to speak, I was so overwhelmed with sadness and sorrow. Somehow, I managed to get the words out, but I was only able to speak just long enough to translate into French for them the words that were there beneath that young soldier… “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” I could not have engaged them with another single word, such was the lump in my throat. I looked away.
I will always remember what that statue told me that day. He said, “I was young, I had a life I wanted to live. But there was a great evil in the land, and I had to choose to either go and confront this evil, or be consumed by it, because it was growing. I did not want to die. Tell those who loved me never to forget me. And tell others that they must never forget what made all of this sorrow happen. We let it happen, my generation. We let it grow until it cost us too much to end it. Remember me. Remember all of us. Let our lesson not be forgotten.”
Remember This Statue
Stand Up And Speak Out
Germany outlawed all Nazi items. It is a crime there to display a Nazi flag, to wear a Nazi helmet, to even hold a Nazi rally. Yet, here in the safety of my home, I am watching lunacy as “quasi-Americans” claim to merely be exercising their right of free speech so that they can parade the symbols of a dead madman. Let there be no more Anne Franks. Let there be no more Corrie ten Booms. Let there be no more statues to young men who were sacrificed to the god of Madness. Nazism is Molech. It will consume your youth. I saw a statue that spoke to me. Whatever it takes for that statue of that young man who died in Normandy fighting Hitler and his Nazis to speak to you, may we as a nation wake up before it is too late. The reckless youths who cannot remember the sorrows of Nazism are summoning Madness from His cave. He has awakened, He is looking for another place to feed, and all of those who remain silent as his servants amass will awaken one morning, and the point of no return will have passed, the world will turn dark once again, and we who sat in the safety of our homes and did nothing to demand the death of Madness will experience a world we thought we could safely forget.