A story by True contributor Mike Straw this week uses a powerful quote as a tagline. Mike, a retired career U.S. Air Force officer, posted a Twitter thread about his research for the tagline, and it was so good I thought I’d have him expand his introduction just a bit so it can be posted here. First, the story from True’s 10 May 2020 issue:
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of V.E. Day, Nicole and Mark Slater decorated their Telford, England, home with the flag of the United Kingdom, along with a flag featuring a poppy — a popular symbol of remembrance in Britain. The next morning, Mark found an anonymous note on their doorstep. “Several residents have raised concerns with the offensive nature of the flags which you have put up in a well respected area,” the letter claimed. “We have made a formal complaint to Telford and Wreckin Council [sic] and we will escalate and take this further.” The letter said the flags were “useless, oversized, [and] disgusting.” The couple contacted the Telford and Wrekin Council — which encouraged them to carry on — and Nicole posted a copy of the letter to social media. They received overwhelming support from neighbors, many of which are military veterans. (MS/Shropshire Star) …“The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.” —Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig (1861–1928), commander of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, WWI.
Haig, of Course, is Right
In my opinion, the best historical quotes apply long after they were uttered, and this one’s a slam-dunk example. The full quote, which Haig put in writing, is:
To ALL RANKS OF THE BRITISH ARMY IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS
Three weeks ago to-day the enemy began his terrific attacks against us on a fifty-mile front. His objects are to separate us from the French, to take the Channel Ports and destroy the British Army. In spite of throwing already 106 Divisions into the battle and enduring the most reckless sacrifice of human life, he has as yet made little progress towards his goals. We owe this to the determined fighting and self-sacrifice of our troops. Words fail me to express the admiration which I feel for the splendid resistance offered by all ranks of our Army under the most trying circumstances. Many amongst us now are tired. To those I would say that Victory will belong to the side which holds out the longest. The French Army is moving rapidly and in great force to our support. There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end. The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.
(Signed) D. Haig F.M. Commander-in-Chief British Armies in France, 11 April .
Here’s what Mike had to say about his research:
Forgetting There’s Such a Thing as Tolerance
I came across this quote while trying to come up with a good tagline for a story in True. The quote isn’t related to the story; it just caught my eye because it seems to hold some truth for today.
Once I lead the people into war they’ll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance.
To fight you must be brutal and ruthless, and the spirit of ruthless brutality will enter into the very fiber of our national life, infecting Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, and the man on the street.
—Woodrow Wilson, 2 April 1917
When all else fails, it’s important to have a strong defense against oppression, genocide, and other atrocities, but that doesn’t require a continuous state of war that evolves into a means of propping up for-profit contractors.
I joined the Air Force during the Cold War, and military operations were rare. Then in late 1989 Operation Dessert Shield started. I remember the day, because I was a young Airman and my NCOIC (Noncommissioned Officer in Charge — a.k.a. my boss) needed to make a point about something I’d neglected. So he told me that Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait. My only thoughts at the time were, Who’s Saddam Hussein? and Where’s Kuwait? It didn’t take long for me to learn the answers.
Since then the military has been on a war-time footing, and it’s cost our country dearly — not just financially, but in “the very fiber of our national life, infecting Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, and the man on the street.”
Our country was led into war, and now so many people have forgotten “there ever was such a thing as tolerance.” No wonder there is so much hate raging in our nation today.
I don’t know what to do about it, but in this time of major crisis that isn’t centered on war, I hope we can somehow seek unity, cooperation, and peace instead of intolerance, hate, and war — while still taking a stand against those who would bring harm to others.
Maybe this post will be a small step in that direction.
——End of Mike’s Comments
Mike’s own aside is pretty brilliant: “…a continuous state of war that evolves into a means of propping up for-profit contractors.”
We’ve certainly been seeing that for many years.
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