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How to build a memorial
, this excerpt from Christopher Hitchens' Memorial Day essay
in the Wall Street Journal:
"Always think of it: never speak of it." That was the stoic French injunction during the time when the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine had been lost. This resolution might serve us well at the present time, when we are in midconflict with a hideous foe, and when it is too soon to be thinking of memorials to a war not yet won.
No matter that Hitchens has quoted the French before
, and no matter that the kind of French stoic he cites has been long extinct. The wisdom behind the posture should be self-evident, and it is to many--just not to worshippers in the Church of Comfort and Convenience.
I was lucky to have been raised by my mother, who still exhibits this kind of stoicism, and by my late father, who was stoical in the face of his last illness--and who remained silent about what he did and saw island hopping with the Marines in WW II, up to and including Okinawa. He did speak well, however, of the Japanese, after they were utterly defeated. A part of the U.S. occupation force in Tokyo, he was offered a commission if he would stay. Dad declined, saying he had to get home: his mother missed him.
The only true and lasting memorials are erected in the citadel of a human heart which gives ample space and honor to love and tenderness, determination and hope. A human mind devoted to protecting this--by naming and facing the adversary squarely--is a mind well used. All the rest is dust.