This year, let us all remember hard-lessons learned in the Second World War and recommit to a multilateral world.
Frail men in their late nineties gazed into the Normandy sky at what may have been. A grateful president saluted them with the respect that underscores the grandeur of their courage. Fifteen thousand people listened to the wise words of a world leader who is too young to have known the calamities of war and the confiscation of freedom, but old enough to value the true meaning of liberty. This was no ordinary day at the beach.
“What still hits you after 75 years is the incredible courage, the generosity that they showed. There was, during those hours, like an ongoing force that carried each one to his destiny. It is this force of the soul that carried them thousands of kilometers from their homes to rescue men and women they didn’t know, to free a land […] with no other compass than a cause they knew to be greater than themselves: that of liberty, that of freedom.” – Emmanuel Macron
The true value of freedom is only as high as the price you or others are willing to pay to preserve it.
We must all come to the beaches of Normandy to forget our differences and eradicate our hatred of others. We must all breathe in deeply the fragile air, listen to the sound of the waves rolling their way into eternity, and carry in our hearts the souls of thousands of young men who gave up their future to protect ours. The true value of freedom is only as high as the price you or others are willing to pay to preserve it. Many have paid the ultimate price – with their lives – and we must be truly thankful.
It is because so many people lost their lives so that we can get on with ours, that the D-Day remembrance must go beyond a false show of unity from two world leaders who do not hide their differing views on the world.
“We must show ourselves worthy of the heritage of peace and worthy of the promise of Normandy.” – Emmanuel Macron
We could start by learning the lessons from this dark period of our history. In 1987, former French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen caused an outrage when he stated that, “I ask myself several questions. I’m not saying the gas chambers didn’t exist. I haven’t seen them myself. I haven’t particularly studied the question. But I believe it’s just a detail in the history of World War II.” Interpreting what he said with leniency, he may have unknowingly made a point. Namely, that the horrific killing of Jews was just a logical consequence of a horrific ideology and its wide-spread support by ignorant masses blindly following a satanic leader. It is the ideology that was the root cause of the evil and inhumane actions perpetrated during the Holocaust. Suppress the ideology and you prevent it being put into practice.
The US and UK are turning away from post-war principles.
The Normandy invasion of 1944 was not only carried out to free Europe from the Nazis. The American president of the time, Franklin Roosevelt, had a vision of the world based on multilateralism, cooperation, democracy, and free-trade. The post-war world saw the birth of the United Nations and the precursor of the present European Union. These monumental institutions were synonymous with the maintaining world peace, defending democracy and combating evil using the inherent strength of alliances and sense of togetherness.
The presence at last week’s Normandy commemorations of Donald Trump and Theresa May underscores the fact that dangerous ideologies that could so easily turn into evil ones are still with us today. Here are two world leaders who honour those who fought and died to preserve our freedom, whilst preaching unilateralism at home. Instead of wanting to preserve the inheritance of those who died on the Normandy beaches, Donald Trump and Theresa May are ready to undermine international alliances such as the UN and EU, respectively. The US and UK are not only turning away from these post-war principles but are betraying them.
With the passing of time, fewer war veterans can relive exactly what happened on those blood-drenched beaches and what it meant to them. Future generations will have to rely solely on what was told to us and how we remember and interpret what we heard.
WWII represents an ideology that is still present and must be vanquished.
There are some who believe that it is time to move on (and forget?). Holding such a view is not only wrong but also highly dangerous. Let us never forget that WWII represents the acrid conclusion of an evil ideology that still exists today. It is obvious that future commemorations will not be as emotional as the one we witnessed this week, where we saw images of veterans parachuting through the Normandy sky.
There is only one way in which we can avoid excessive commemorations of the Normandy landings as if we suddenly realised once a year that they took place and the significance they bore. It is to consider those who fought for freedom not as heroes, but as ordinary men who found it natural to defend the freedom that they considered something to be treasured. These men left behind the very thing they fought for – freedom – by giving up their lives for a greater cause. They would probably not even want to be honoured and remembered with so much pomp and circumstance.
“I think it is essential — not necessarily to remember we people — but to ensure that there is never, ever, ever another world war.” – D-Day veteran George Batts (93)
Celebrating D-Day in this way might not be that important anymore, but what happens in-between yearly commemorations certainly is. Macron’s “promise of Normandy,” must always be in our minds, ticking in the background, governing our actions, and maintaining peace, tolerance and cooperation between nations.
George is a British/French national. He has a passion for oral microbiology (obtained a PhD in Lyon, France) and a passion for philosophy and politics.