Monday, May 29, 2006

A Book of Remembrance

On Memorial Day I open an old valise that contains those things my father considered his personal treasures. Old newspaper clippings, copies of his orders and discharge papers, his stock car license and dues books from the Carpenters and Joiners Union. On Memorial Day I always take out the perfect-bound soft cover book that the Mothers' and Wives' Club of three generations ago entitled, A Book of Remembrance. The book was probably published in 1946, though the wives and mothers didn't consider the publication date important enough to include. Likewise, the wives and mothers posed for a group photo, but didn't bother captioning it with their own names. The important thing, you see, was to memorialize those who spent their youth in defense of their families.

A Book of Remembrance contains the photos and names of the men and women who left the towns and hamlets and farms of this part of rural Madison County, New York in order to confront and vanquish the great threat and evil of their day. The book is dedicated to the fallen. Their number is shocking, coming as they did from this bucolic and sparsely populated region. Each tiny hamlet sacrificed one or more of her children, every drop of blood remembered by the Mothers' and Wives' Club, and the names and photos preserved for their posterity.

This generation of Americans, sometimes called "the greatest generation" is also often excoriated for being uninformed, naive, and jingoistic. An odd charge considering that the media of their day reported both defeats and victories. But the newsmen were unabashedly on the side of the Allies, not having acquired that sophistication that leads today's journalists to crow openly about American defeats, while minimizing her victories and the sacrifices of her sons and daughters (save when it serves a greater political purpose to emphasize those sacrifices). Today's reporters seem to have forgotten that the document that guarantees their right to inform the public is the Constitution of the United States of America. Most seem to pledge allegiance to some supra-national ideal, and hold the rankest propaganda morally equivalent to what little honest reporting still goes on.

Three generations ago they did not question their mission or their unity of purpose.

Today our sons and daughters once again confront the great evil of our day, though it is unfashionable to say so. Can anyone imagine the chic soccer moms and dads of today creating such a A Book of Remembrance?