Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Four Boys and One War

It is May 5th today,  65 years after the official liberation day in the Netherlands in 1945. The date is burnt into my DNA, like the birthdays of  siblings. I am always aware of it.
Any time I meet a Canadian veteran, I make it a point to thank him personally for the liberation.

Even so, I dare to propose that after 65 years it may be time for this celebration to be retired in its present flag-waving form.

When I was there a year ago I was struck by how much the Dutch remain obsessed with WWII. Isn't it time to let it go?

In the years after WWII the German nation has been a model global citizen. Isn't it time to let present generations off the hook of inherited guilt?

Instead, the days in spring that marked both beginning and ending of WWII could be used to reflect on the horrors of war in general. 

In my rural neighborhood, within a square kilometer, lived 4 men whose lives had been blighted by WWII. Two of them have recently moved away but this was the case for years. They were all friends too.  

My husband was born in 1936 in Indonesia and spent 3 years in a Japanese prison camp. Someone (who?) wrote that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who know what it is like to be hungry, and those who don't. Chris knows.

K's family suffered the many injustices meted out to Canadians of Japanese origin. Dispossession, banishment to the Interior where they had to live in inhuman conditions, lives lost to hardship and disease, families ripped apart.  

Then there was J, originally from London, England, who was evacuated from the city during the Blitz. His first memory was being all alone and utterly bewildered. No mother, no sisters, just a dingy hall with green walls and many other children. The family never quite recovered.

And finally there was F, born in Germany. He saw his share of bombings and lost his father.

Four sides of a worldwide conflict, four childhoods deeply scarred, four lives blighted by trauma.

Enough already.

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