By: Carol Maxym, Ph.D.
Seventy-one years. Entire lifetimes. June 6, 1944. Does it matter anymore? Even those who survived the day are mainly gone now. Fewer and fewer to tell their stories. The world has changed and the news is more about the Middle East or Ukraine or Africa. Europe, it seems has settled. Mainly.
So what does it matter 71 years later? I’m sure you’ve seen the films of the Americans, the British, the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders stepping out of those boats, moving towards the land. Many, ever so many killed before they even made it there. But they kept on coming. And they established themselves on the beaches. They moved inland. I have never stopped being awed, truly awed by the courage of those young men.
When they came home—those that did—people didn’t keep thanking them for their service. I think the reason is because pretty much any able-bodied American served in the war. No one had to try to assuage feelings of what? Guilt? Inadequacy? No one had to hide behind bloviated gratitude. No one had to hold forth about heroism because everyone accepted the heroism. The women who worked in the factories were heroes, too. There was a social contract that held people together.
So twice this weekend I watched teens in groups of adults hide in electronics, in phones, in video games, texts, instagrams. And I ask myself: If they are called upon, will they/would they be up to the task? Can they come out of their own tiny (for it is tiny) world long enough to behold true heroism and imitate it in real life? To know they must stand on the side of right?
Could they rise to the occasion or have we so disadvantaged them—yes, disadvantaged them by entitlement, by rescue, by creating a child and teen centered world? Have we kept them from knowing how to do what is right simply because it is right?
Have we rescued a generation to the point they do not have the ability to be heroic?
Fewer and fewer remain to tell their stories of D-Day…and would anyone be listening?