[OPINION] The legacy of D-Day
The 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings or D-Day, observed from June 5 to 6, came and went. However, in the next few months, we will be witness to a number of 75th anniversaries commemorating momentous events in the last year and a half of the Second World War. Just to name a few: the Liberation of Paris, the Battle of Arnhem, and the mauling of the Allied airborne armies, the Battle of the Bulge, and the last offensive of the Germans at the Western Front. Each of these significant battles will have their own commemorations until everything culminates in 2020 in the 75th anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany and the end of the war in Europe.
All of these battles mentioned, together with the Soviet Red Army victories at the Eastern Front, led to the eventual destruction of the evil that was Nazi Germany. All of these symbolized the triumph of freedom over fascist tyranny. That is what the American, British, Polish, French, Belgian, Dutch, and many other nationalities fought for. Even the Russians fought to free their country from Nazi rule, although their government had other ideas as to what to do with Eastern and Central Europe. The Poles themselves had ironically fought for the freedom of other nations while their country was slowly being trampled upon by the Soviet Red Army. Tragically for the Poles, they would be betrayed by their Western Allies when Poland was apportioned to the Soviet sphere of influence.
Still, it was the greatest triumph that the world had ever seen against fascism. It was hoped that the world would see the last of fascism. That was not to be, though.
Unfortunately, 75 years later, partisan politics has begun to cloud the true meaning of the sacrifice of Allied soldiers in the Second World War. In a bizarre twist, the heroism and sacrifices of these soldiers are used by some public officials, backed by unscrupulous opinion makers, to stifle dissent, with words like, "How dare you protest! Have you served your country's military like our World War II veterans? If not, then you have no right to protest!" It is as if military service is the prerequisite to having and airing one’s opinion, which is something straight out of a dystopian setting.
Indeed, that is a travesty. It is a great betrayal of what the victory in that war meant for humanity. In fact, that very line of reasoning by these public officials and opinion makers is more akin to what a fascist state like Nazi Germany would say. Totalitarian, authoritarian states value rigidity and conformity, and nothing best illustrates that than the military institution. Hence, for public officials and opinion makers to deliberately misread the Allied victory in the Second World War and use it to push for a fascist narrative only betrays their true intentions. They also spit on the faces of and insult the memories of the veterans who fought and gave their lives in the struggle against Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers.
What makes a nation strong
Democracy, civil liberties, and freedom are all built by continuous action in an unending process by a nation's people throughout history. It is not the result of a single action by an institution, like, for example, the military. It is through the collective struggle of individuals, groups, and institutions to build up a nation, and its path is strewn by the corpses and broken bodies of its martyrs, both in wartime and peacetime. These then are what makes a nation strong and what makes it prevail over its opponents in times of conflict. No single entity can lay claim to being a protector or provider of freedom. In fact, any institution or entity which claims to be the sole guarantor must be looked upon with suspicion as it might arrogate upon itself the right to strip away that very freedom.
The oft repeated saying that the sacrifices of soldiers brought us our freedom is oftentimes misappropriated by politicized elements in the military to foist upon themselves the mantle of being beyond reproach. No, it is not the military that brought us our freedom, it is the people who backed and wholeheartedly supported the cause who made such a victory happen. Just like how the American people flocked to enlist in the Second World War; or how civilians, both young and old, men or women, in Japanese-occupied Philippines organized resistance, thus creating one of the largest guerrilla movements in Asia during that same war. Freedom is then a result of these actions. It may be said that history is replete with examples of powerful armies defeated due to lack of popular support at the home front.
Let us not, for purposes of political partisanship, distort the legacy of freedom that was fought hard for during the Second World War. People did not fight 75 years ago for some of those in power today to use their sacrifices as a means to foist fascist beliefs to eradicate legitimate dissent. – Rappler.com
Jose Antonio Custodio is a security and defense consultant. He specializes in military history and has post-graduate studies in history from the University of the Philippines. He occasionally teaches history and political science in several universities in Metro Manila.