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on May 5, and it speaks to the fact that World War II, more and more, is the historical and civic touchstone of American life. Army “is hoping that reintroducing an iconic service uniform from the days of the Band of Brothers and Rosie the Riveter will help reframe its public image.” We could add more broadly that the Army wishes to link itself to memories of the Good War, the Greatest Generation, General Dwight Eisenhower, and, yes, the unifying leadership of Presidents Franklin D. Indeed, both of those presidents were plenty controversial in their days, yet seven decades later, a sort of secular halo surrounds them.
President Ronald Reagan’s trip to Normandy in 1984, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, was indeed a signal moment.
Nobody watching TV back then forgot the Gipper’s speech on a now-silent bluff, the chill Atlantic at his back, the president gesturing toward the graying Rangers in front of him: “These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the champions who helped free a continent.
Now they lie here silently in this sacred soil, and we gather to consecrate this earth in their memory. Yet oftentimes, events prove to be larger than any personality, no matter how fractious.
Interestingly, Gittlesohn lived long enough to give the benediction at the 50th anniversary of Iwo Jima in the shadow of the Marine War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Moreover, the impact of World War II was far more than just martial commemorations—there’s also a distinctly left-friendly domestic political angle.
Men who were on the same ships with us, and went over the sides with us as we prepared to hit the beaches of this island. Somewhere in this plot of ground there may lie the man who could have discovered the cure for cancer. Not longer after—on June 6, to be exact—comes the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and with it, we’re sure to see a flotilla of specials and spectacles.
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Under one of those Christian crosses, or beneath a Jewish Star of David, there may rest now a man who was destined to be a great prophet…to find the way, perhaps, for all to live in plenty, with poverty and hardship for none. Why, we’ll likely also be reminded of FDR’s D-Day prayer, broadcast to the nation, which began: “Almighty God: our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.” Admittedly, it’s hard to see President Donald Trump playing the same inspiring and unifying role that FDR did in 1944, or Reagan in 1984.
It doesn’t protect and guarantee you economic rights.
By this reckoning, Sanders is more of a social democrat than a democratic socialist; that is, he stands in a strong tradition, reaching back to the greatest presidential vote-getter in American history.
Yes, social democratic thinking has been in eclipse for the past few decades.
Yet if the solidarity of World War II is making a comeback, then its domestic policy aspects, too, might be due for a comeback.