Sunday, November 14, 2010

Armistice Day, the Brits, & Lessons for Us All

A few weeks back at Power Line Blog I came upon a post about a new video compilation (link) of some rarely seen WWII British home front footage, accompanied by the audio of a live performance at the British Festival of Remembrance in November 2009. The background music on the video is, what I have now come to know, a WWII-era song “There’s a Land of Begin Again”, sung (link) with great depth and pacing by a young man named Jamie Cullum, whom I had not heard of previously but whom I now read is fairly well known in some music circles. The song was recorded at the time, perhaps originally, by Vera Lynn, who is better known for another wistful war-era song “We’ll Meet Again.”

Listening to Vera Lynn sing I can just imagine the lyrics running through peoples’ heads as they huddled in air raid shelters listening to the destruction of their world above:
There’s a land of begin again, on the other side of the hill
Where we’ll learn to love and live again, where the world is quiet and still,
There’s a land of begin again, and there’s not a cloud in the sky,
Where we’ll never have to grieve again, and we’ll never say good-bye.
When all your troubles just surround you, and around you, skies are gray,
If you can only keep your eyes on, the horizon, not so far away.
It’s remarkable in some ways that the British were able to rustle up the will to fight through the Second World War, having not yet recovered from the horror, devastation, and loss of life from the First, their despair captured well by Eliot in the opening lines of his otherwise inordinately cryptic poem:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm,
Covering Earth in forgetful snow.
Armistice Day once again brings to mind many things, not the least of which such notions as the importance of early deterrence, how weakness is provocative to predators, and the illusoriness of appeasement. Despite paying a dreadful price when such lessons were forgotten, within memory history now repeats itself as tragedy.

The British mustered enough energy and purpose to lift themselves from despair and ennui, but only long enough to prevail. In the end, their reserves exhausted, most soon collapsed, perhaps terminally, into deep pacifism, apathy, and decadence, unwilling to defend their own culture against the growing depredations of socialism and Islamism in unholy alliance. Surely there are many stout Brits who will once again throw off their stupor and stand strong, but will there be enough of them this time around? And is America to suffer the same fate?

John M Greco

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