In America, it’s Veteran’s Day. Across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, it is Remembrance Day. In New Zealand, France, and Belgium it is Armistice Day, and in Poland, it is National Independence Day.
And it is an especially hard day in 2021, considering the sacrifices made by those who came before us, and the circumstances we have allowed to develop in their absence.
The fourth verse of For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon is the traditional Remembrance Day poem in the United Kingdom. Few have not heard it, even of younger generations:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
But the first verse perhaps should give us more pause, this year:
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
And whether you are from England, American, Australia, Canada, France, Belgium, Poland, New Zealand, or otherwise, those final words should resonate.
“Fallen in the cause of the free.”
The people the world remembers today were not fighting for a political party, nor for an oligarchy. They were fighting for something we have let too easily slip through our fingers. Basic freedoms. Freedoms, in fact, from oppressive, overbearing governments with little regard for life, and only regard for ideological or partisan compliance.
And today’s services of remembrance sting that little bit more knowing what hell the West hath wrought in our decades-long foreign wars that have left so many without full lives or full families.
The draw down in Afghanistan just three months ago served as a reminder – which of course most have now already forgotten – of the fragility of Western military might. And indeed the futility of our abilities to project values in places where they bear no weight.
That very point separates the hills of Kandahar from the Flanders Fields, not that the sharpest minds in foreign policy and military strategy seem to recognize it.
But then again, they’ve been very wrong, for so very long. As Peter Hitchens noted in pre-COVID 2018:
It has also struck me, since I am so often told that those who fought in 1914 did so for our freedom, that we are far less free as a people, from all kinds of government interference, than we were before that war. It was 1914 that began the era of heavy taxation, surveillance, regulation and general snooping and bureaucracy which now stifle us.
It was also 1914 that swept away the restrained and quiet world of yesterday, and the great, stuffy cumbersome empires of Austria, Germany and Russia, replacing them with the slick murderous modern empires of the Nazis and the Bolsheviks. Was this progress?
It wasn’t progress. And no “progress” has been made since the world removed those evils it installed in place of the empires that came before them. In reality, all we’ve achieved in 100+ years besides the good technological advancements that came from some relatively free enterprises using capital to lift people from poverty is cementing the dark specter of centralization as a means of governance. Today, we reap what has been sown.
“Fallen in the cause of the free”?
We do little to prove we ever deserved their sacrifices.