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Contrasted to Vietnam, WWII is an American legacy in the world that satisfies left and right alike. The mission was clear and we rose to the challenge.
Conservative author Peggy Noonan wrote about D-Day, and about the Higgins boats that brought our soldiers to Normandy Beach in the introduction to her book "Patriotic Grace." Noonan tells of one soldier, his fate intricately woven with the fate of the other men in his Higgins Boat, heading in high seas to a conclusion unknown... "it took [his] five little boats four hours to cover the nine miles to the beach: They were the worst hours of our lives. It was pitch black, cold, and the rain was coming down in sheets, drenching us. The boats were being tossed in the waves, making all of us violently sick."
Noonan reflects on the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in as a people today, and of the rise of the partisan hate-filled din. Says Noonan "we fight as if we'll never need each other," yet our very fate may depend on one another.
Like it or not, we are in each others' Higgins boats. Our fate, almost certainly shared.
Given that circumstance, perhaps we might use today to consider how we will best keep faith with those young Americans who left their lives that day on Omaha Beach.We disagree on mission in the world, as we disagree on who we are at home. But we are a nation of high reputation to uphold and infinite capacity to rise to the challenge. We don't agree on how to handle the Middle East, when to use force, how involved to become in the affairs of other nations. We don't agree on whether we should strike out and master what Thomas Friedman calls our "flat world" economically or by strength or whether we should pull in and bunker up. We seem to disagree on 100 years of political decisions relative to our role in the world at large, from the United Nations through the war in Iraq. Disagreement of endless complexity is played out in bumper sticker soundbytes.
How we handle our borders could be the most contentious issue of our time, yet there is little discussion of substance that doesn't deteriorate into something more fitting to school children. In many of our states, citizens feel under siege by illegal immigration - a problem that while we seem to all agree it needs to be solved, our vilification of each other essentially paralyzes government from solving the problem. There is plenty of hate out and about, but not everyone who thinks we need to close our border is a racist the same as not everyone who supports amnesty is a politician looking to grow voters.
True, these are infinitely hard questions, but they are the Normandy Beach of our time. And we might wish it were not true, we reach the beachhead together.
Or we don't.