It’s quiet here at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, where the 75th anniversary commemorating D-Day was held last month. It’s cold and drizzly, typical weather for Normandy. The chairs, bleachers and tents have been taken down. Most of the workmen have left. Yet, weather be damned, two million visitors are expected to come this year to pay their respects, or just to take a tour.
The cemetery is, simply, the eighth wonder of the modern world — a modern world shaped by the United States. The 9,387 graves serve as a reminder to us all, in Kipling’s phrase, “Lest we forget.”
Lest we forget what?
Lest we forget what we, or perhaps more accurately what they, fought for. Here’s what President Roosevelt, in his prayer as Operation Overlord began, said they were fighting for:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Interesting. Our “republic,” not our democracy. Our “religion,” not anyone else’s religion, and not the separation of church and state either. And our “civilization,” by which he meant Western Civilization, the great heritage of Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and Runnymede (the foundation of limited government and the judicial traditions of the Anglo-American system).
Listen to Democratic candidates running for their party’s nomination for president and you will hear no talk of “our civilization.”
Even alluding to FDR’s “civilization” would these days be described by left-wing Democratic progressives, deophobic to the core, as privileged, white-supremacist, racist, homophobic speech.
Brett Stephens, writing in the New York Times, stated the problem: “Nor do we believe any longer in the ideals for which they fought.”
One question for Stephens, and for us, is, who are the “we” Roosevelt was talking about when he said “our” religion and “our” civilization? Did it include those people who might be described as, or who in previous eras might have been described as, the “upper classes”? People who read newspapers, grew up in the super zips with the benefits of wealth and privilege, went to tony colleges, and do indoor work, often on Wall Street? People who are meant to be natural leaders?
In other words, those who now call themselves Democrats? They certainly don’t believe in the civilization Roosevelt was talking about.
Democrats — at least the noisy ones — are now consumed with guilt (or pretend to be) for all the sins committed against blacks, Indians, women, and any other group now described as “oppressed” or “marginalized,” not to mention the birds and the bees and other creepy crawly things.
Through the magic of political prestidigitation, the Democrats have transferred that guilt to you! Democrats — all those Rhodes Scholars (time out to contemplate the irony of two Democrats’ running for their party’s nomination having accepted scholarships named for Cecil Rhodes!) — as Americans, may think they have inherited that guilt, but they are now busy atoning for their guilt by telling you how awful you are.
Democrats emphasize “democracy” now because they want to give the vote to 16 (i.e., ignoramuses), felons (even those still in prison), and illegal (and mostly non-English speaking) aliens. Democrats are the party of stamping out religion and religious practices. They want to compel bakers to make cakes for people who transgress their religious principles. Democrats want to keep abortion legal, the third most horrific systematic killing of innocents in history, third after Mao and Stalin — nice company, yes?
Those are the ideals of modern Democrats. Stephens is right: “we,” at least, the prominent Democrats among us, certainly do not believe anymore in the ideals Roosevelt contemplated in his D-Day prayer.
Was it all in vain? Did the 9,387 soldiers buried in the cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer — and the tens of thousands of others around the world — die for nothing permanent?
Are we entering a dark age? How do you tell? Where do we, the “we” who still believe in the civilization Roosevelt was talking about, go from here?
It’s a good question. It is, in fact, the question, the defining question, for this age, perhaps for all ages. Where do we go from here?
Things can look bleak. Things do look bleak. Sometimes. But there is also light — a new Supreme Court, renewed energy in the faithful, opposition to abortion. As William F. Buckley Jr. remarked many years ago, practically in a different civilization (it was 1959), “The wells of regeneration are infinitely deep.”
And so we must hope — remembering always that hope is not a strategy, certainly not one for a people whose forebears fought and died for our republic, our religion, and our civilization, some of whom are buried in the serenely beautiful American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.
Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.