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A tribute to the fallen

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President Trump is reliably reported to have referred to soldiers who have fallen in battle as “losers” and “suckers.” Supposedly, on November 10, 2018, he refused to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, outside Paris. It was raining and he feared his hair would get mussed. On hearing this—reported in the Atlantic magazine—I was totally surprised at the strength of my emotion. Anger, yes, but sadness too. I want to write about this. Not about Trump. Enough people are doing this already. But about why I feel so strongly.In a way, you might think it odd. I was born in England, at the beginning of the Second World War, just at the time of the fall of France. The cemetery at Aisne-Marne is the final resting place of American marines who fell in battle in what was then called the Great War, and now the First World War. Why would it be things connected with that war that had such an emotional effect on me? In the 1950s and 60s, in Britain as well as America, so much popular culture was about the Second War. Movies for instance. The Dam Busters. The Longest Day. Why would it not be the Second war that affected me? There is reason enough for such an emotion. Those men who fell in the Battle of the Bulge, and at Iwo Jima.That is misleading. Growing up in Britain in the 1940s, it was the Great War that defined us. My teachers in elementary school were single women whose boyfriends had fallen in Flanders. The books we read at school—Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon—related back to that war. As did the poetry, from Rupert Brook—“If I should die think only this of me”—to Wilfred Owen—“Gas, GAS, quick boys.” In many front parlors was a picture of Uncle Fred, aged 18, so proud in his new uniform. Dead at Passchendaele.And then, 1962, I went to Canada. To this day, for that country—as for Australia and New Zealand—it is the Great War that defines it. Huge numbers of its young men went to fight for the mother country, never to return, sleeping now. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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