Monday, May 25, 2020

Taps (a memoir by a Duncaster resident}


"Lieb Vaterland, magst ruhig sein, fest steht die Wacht am Rhein. – Dear Fatherland, rest assured, solid stands the guard on the Rhine.”  The generation of my father sang this song as boys during World War I. It addressed the perennial animosity between Germany and France and was a deep-seated feeling of youth then. World War I, the Versailles Treaty of 1918, and the renewed nationalism kept the song and feeling awake. I admit it had a hold on my emotions during my childhood in World War II.

 But then it all ended in a terrible realization that the Nazi regime of World War II was anything but protecting the treasured Fatherland and its values.

 The post-World War II reassessment of values and the recognition by both German and French leaders, that the animosity must be reconciled for generations to come, became the basis and center of the creation of the European Union. We can only hope that it is of lasting effect.

 But what about my own experience? It is a very strange thing. I saw all these pictures of cemeteries with untold numbers of grave sites of American soldiers who had sacrificed their lives to rid the world of this scourge called Nationalist Socialisms or Nazi-ism. How could I accept such a sacrifice by the youth of a country that had been labelled as “the enemy”?

 I watched war-time movies and old newsreels. I found myself rooting for the American cause. Still, I recognized some of the depicted German valor. Divided loyalties? It’s one of the difficulties of being an immigrant. Do you have to take sides? Not really. You have to assess where your own values lie. Don’t pay attention to slogans and propaganda of any sides that want to enlist your loyalty. But where do your own values come from? Parents? Faith? Institutions? Self-assessment and experience?  Who knows.

 In any event, as I felt more and more at home in the USA and learned about its history and basic concepts of what is truly important, I recognized the idealism that urged young Americans to go out and fight for their beliefs, whether as conscripts or as volunteers. It is an idealism that some may toss aside as being naïve. But it still is alive. And I subscribe to it. I value my US citizenship greatly and I value what it represents: The basic goodness and the humanity inherent in each person, the importance of living up to that idealism.

 When I hear taps, it moves me to tears, each and every time. It attests to the sacrifice of so many who have given their lives to the ideals of a just society and to humanity as a whole. It resonates with me. I am not faint of heart, or “mushy” as some might say. I am a believer in all that is possible with the right kind of attitude and contribution to make this world a more just place for all. And is this not a German idealism as well?

 "Seid umschlungen Milionen, diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt! - Be embraced, oh millions, this kiss to the entire world” as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony so eloquently urges.

1 comment:

Dean Macri said...

Great Memorial Day Tribute