Thursday, August 18

IMAGINE IF ALL THE CROSSES AT ARLINGTON ...

All wars in which this country has been engaged have had their share of detractors. Some more than others, to be sure, but no war in American history has had a complete absence of critics or been unfettered in its conduct by pacifists, isolationists, war protestors, or even enemy loyalists.

President John F. Kennedy said in his Inaugural Address: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."

But many Americans in his time and many Americans today do not support that view, nor did JFK's own father, as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James (United Kingdom) in the late 1930s. Indeed, he steadfastly opposed America's entry into World War II. And read David McCullough's "1776" -- as I am doing -- to remind yourself that pro-British Americans abounded during this nation's fight for independence and how easily that war could have gone the other way.

I say all this because I was thinking again today (how can one not given the overweening media attention) of Cindy Sheehan and of her agitation, on incessant public display, over her son's death in the war in Iraq and her bulldog determination to see that war ended and President Bush denounced and humiliated as a liar, warmonger, and heartless Commander-In-Chief. And, too, I thought about Arlington National Cemetary -- a place I have humbly visited a handful of times -- and its sacred ground that honors America's war dead, its fallen heroes.

I thought to myself: what if the grieving mothers represented by those buried under rows upon rows of gleaming white crosses had each taken the route of Cindy Sheehan and conducted themselves as she has? What if no president and no war had in each of their minds been worth fighting for? What if they assailed the Commander-In-Chief for their son's or daughter's death and argued vehemently that not one more soldier or sailor or marine should be lost? Could our nation have long endured such public remonstrations?

And, finally, I thought of a DVD movie I have in my collection and which I have viewed many times, "The Fighting Sullivans" -- the poignant account (and true story) of a mother and father who lose all five of their sons on the same ship in naval combat in World War II. That kind of loss is beyond devastating, beyond words. The U.S.S. The Sullivans was commissioned by the Navy as a posthumous tribute to those five brothers' sacrifice; and, lovingly, their mother was on hand to christen the ship.