Two nights of watching Ken Burns’ fine series “The War” has left me with more thoughts and impressions than I have time to discuss now, but here are a few:
*I think this is the country’s last big farewell to the World War II generation. In a few more years there just won’t be that many of them around, as I noted in this NPR/KERA commentary last Memorial Day. By the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014, their numbers will be small indeed. If you know a WW II vet you want to thank, don’t put it off.
*I’m sure everyone has been struck all over again at the universality of World War II. No matter who you were, the war changed your life. You were in it even if you never left the country and never heard a shot fired. It affected what you did for a living, what you could buy, where you could go, when you could go there, and where you lived in many cases.
Many have contrasted that all-enveloping experience of our parents and grandparents with today’s war, in which 100% of the burden is borne by about .00002 percent of the population. I was as disappointed as anyone when President Bush failed to galvanize the desire so many felt to do something, anything to help the country in the days after Sept. 11. An enormous reservoir of patriotic feeling and good will was there to draw upon, and he failed to do it.
But after we’ve given the President all the criticism he deserves on that score, we have to say: “OK. He didn’t step up. Does that absolve me of all responsibility? If I’m bothered by the unequal sharing of the burden in this war, isn’t there anything I can do besides wait for directions from Washington?” (A bad idea in any case.)
Answer: Yes. If you haven’t seen any volunteer/helping opportunities in your newspaper or heard about any at a hospital or school or church, go on the Web and search. You’ll find something in about ten minutes. Here’s just one link to about 25 ways to help.
By the way, this has nothing to do with whether you’re for or against the war, or whether you believe we should double troop strength tomorrow or bring everyone home this weekend. We need to acknowledge our solidarity with the people who have borne the terrible brunt of this war. Long after Bush has faded away, they’ll need and deserve our help.
Oh, one other thing: Now that the New York Times has dropped its “Times Select” paywall, check out the excellent series “Home Fires” written by several returning Iraq veterans. Most of us don’t even know anyone who has served; this series is a way of closing that gap. Find it here and scroll down for more stories.