I remember walking the beaches of Normandy a few years ago, a side trip during one of my training sessions for the CIA. It was late winter. The air was brisk and damp. The sky was overcast, gray, solemn as if the sky itself wanted us to always remember June 6, 1944 and to feel the sadness of that day.
By comparison to the thunder of bursting bombs and the roar of machine guns, the beaches of Normandy are quiet these days. Quiet except for groups of tourists, usually during warmer weather, shuffling through the sand and carefully listening to some well-versed guide explaining the strategic details of the Invasion that turned the tide of World War II. The guide would point and turn and gesture to engage the group in how the troops landed, moved... and died.
During the next weeks, TV will dedicate some segments, features or documentaries to the 70th anniversary of this momentous event and remind us of the sacrifices of the "Greatest Generation" who died for our freedom. Generously peppered throughout the commentaries will be words like "sacred" and "hallowed" and "XXX." I understand why we say this, but my cynicism often overtakes me.
Now, I don't actually believe in sacrifices that magically make things better, especially sacrifices by the shedding of soldiers' blood. Nevertheless, those D-Day heroes were genuine heroes; and we do owe them a robust thanksgiving for the peaceful and prosperous world they have bequeathed to us. Whenever you meet a soldier who fought or a nurse who cared in the European or Pacific theatre, shake his or her hand. Or, better, kiss his or her feet.
Still, I'm a tad cynical. Why? Because we use pompous words as if they were recycled plastic containers, holding our patriotism for just a moment. Then, we discard them and retreat back into our shrink-wrapped lives of self-indulgence. We'll get impatient when our fast food isn't fast enough. The generation that died at Normandy died so we could stand in line and complain.
I mean this! Even 70 years after the event, the silly little bits of freedom we enjoy we enjoy because our troops defeated the tyrannical forces of Nazism, because they vanquished the powers of fascism. But I ask: what have we done with this triumph? It seems that we have exchanged the "Greatest" Generation -- the "US/U.S." generation -- for the "Me" generation, hyper-focused on what is important for self, not what is important for the common good.
Today we ask: How can I become the next nerd millionaire? How can I structure the tax code so that my short-term economic interests trump all others? We sue at the drop of a hat. We neglect simple courtesy. We gorge our stomachs with the largess of today's harvest while robbing Mother Earth of her fecundity to feed our great grandchildren and their progeny.
I, Leona Foxx, am fictional. But, my concerns are not. They are authentic. During the two great wars -- the First and Second World Wars -- the enemy was over there. The enemy was overseas. Where is our greatest enemy now?