Column: We won the battle, but did we win the war?
I decided to agree with the decision to put the World War II memorial in the center of the Mall in Washington, D.C. The criticism that it will detract from other monuments and interrupt the serenity of the Reflecting Pool is the very reason it should be there. I believe history will look back at World War II as a pivot point of our nation, and any patriotic reflection of American principles should be doused with the reality of that time and struggle.
What was WWII all about? America (excuse me, Canada) went to war against racist tyranny, but was forced to look in the mirror and realize our own nation suffered from the same racial ailment. A trip through the South demonstrated the hypocrisy of our laws and morals as we marched into Germany.
World War II is bracketed in history by America’s two civil wars. The first was about use of federal authority to maintain this nation and was fueled by the deep belief that slavery was inimical to the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence laid the moral and legal basis for our government, that all men are created equal.
The second civil war is about the survival of the American style of government. We are still fighting this war. It started with the civil rights and women’s movements with the backdrop of Vietnam and rock ‘n’ roll. The common element to both civil wars is the use of a human distinction to assign rights. To the extent our laws were (and are) used to distinguish between us and grant special rights to someone, you deprive another of equal rights.
World War II veterans died to preserve the ideals of the free world. America’s diversity proved to be its strength. But did America only win the battle, not the war? Do we remain a nation that uses differences between us to penalize or entitle specific groups because of a defined characteristic or conduct? All forms of oppression start with a distinction. It makes it no less horrific if the majority favors the result, after all, the French Revolution led to a very bloody guillotine.
The concept of equal rights does not require you to love everyone in this country. You are not forced to associate with anyone. It only requires that we respect one another’s right to be who we are and accept our differences. There are many differences, but it is our strength. If we don’t pull it together, we will leave no legacy for those who fought against tyranny. Reflect on that.
n Kelly Chase is a Carson Valley attorney. His column appears monthly.