Yeah. I’m an idealist. The question is: “Why aren’t you?”
Like most US citizens, I was crushed and disillusioned after the 2016 election. I was struggling with the reality that we’d all entered The Twilight Zone against our will. I have spent the last 18 months staring the collapse of our democracy in the face. I was hopelessly demoralized over the stunning ignorance of a large block of voters; fellow citizens, friends and neighbors. But I’m making a supreme effort to to crawl away from the horror and depression through the study of history and and the inspirational words of a true patriot of 74 years ago.
It was 1944. The entire world was at war. A fascist regime had gained the acceptance of otherwise good and decent German people through racist, patriotic appeals. Their leader called the citizens to believe they were destined to rule the world — that they were better than everyone else. They were number one. He demonized other races and nationalities and maniacally promoted national and racial purity. So zealous were these men that they began the systematic genocide of an entire race of people. Many countrymen didn’t believe, or at least had serious doubts. But in the end they all chose the easier path of complacence and acceptance; choosing to look the other way instead of confront the evil they saw. They longed for victory and the restoration of old values and tradition. They wanted to take pride in themselves and were more than willing to validate extreme means to justify the ends they deserved. — Sound familiar?
The fascist State began the invasion of the rest of Europe. And they were winning. They engaged allies in Italy and Japan and the Axis powers began their violent quest to dominate the world. The United States of America entered the armed conflict late. After our homeland was attacked, we finally had no choice but to go to war. It was a time the whole country pulled together for the morals and ideals we believed in. Men, women; some no more than children; put on uniforms and left home to fight. Women left home and went into factories to keep up the national economy and promote the war effort. But on the front lines, the armies the world were battling each other with the fate of the world in the balance. The invasion of Europe by the Allied Forces was a risky, bloody, amazingly violent and destructive effort, which managed to barely gain a foothold on the continent after huge loss of life.
Through the next few months the Allies slowly gained momentum and began to push back the fascists. But the war was far from over when the Germans regrouped and staged a violent counter attack. The engagement is known as the “Battle of the Bulge”.
The 101st Airborne Division had been cutoff and was surrounded and in danger of being annihilated by Nazi forces near Bastogne, Belgium. Gen. George S. Patton, commanding the 3rd Army, had ordered the 4th Armored Division to counter attack and resupply/rescue the trapped force. In the cold winter conditions the day after Christmas, the 4th Armored Division’s 37th Tank Battalion, commanded by LTC Creighton W. Abrams, broke through the German lines to rescue the 101st Division units.
During the Battle of the Bulge, LTC Abrams is credited with this inspiring quote:
“They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards”.
For the victorious Allied troops, it was the turning point of the war. LTC Abrams words are a profound inspiration to me, as they undoubtedly were to his men those many years ago. In the face of overwhelming odds, he expressed supreme confidence that the forces of goodness would win, the forces of evil were bound to fail and he would lead the effort to help put the world right once again. I can imagine he may have uttered these words calmly and confidently in the face of doom, or possibly he yelled in defiance at the hopelessness on the horizon. The mere physical fact of being surrounded by the enemy was certainly not going to be the determining factor. He knew that defeat could not come if he didn’t accept it. Yes, they could surround him. Yes, they could attack. But if he didn’t give up or allow his men to, they would not be defeated.
I am an Army veteran who served over 11 years. When I left active duty and ventured into the world of civilian employment, I took the lessons of leadership, motivation and teamwork with me. But I found a difficult transition from military to civilian culture Some old habits and values played well and some certainly were not appropriate or effective. But leadership is critically needed in both worlds. When we feel surrounded by evil, incompetence and racism, it’s easy to feel hopeless and defeated. I think often these days of LTC Abrams’ words those 74 years ago. They give me courage.
The forces of today’s conservative politics are simply wrong. We will not return to the 1950s, nor should we. It is not true that the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. There is no such thing as an alternative fact. We will not give in to racism and homophobia and misogyny. The poor bastards will not win, if we are determined not to let them. May we all hear the call of leadership and call out to our fellow citizens. I trust there will be no armed conflict needed to vanquish today’s villains. But when the daily news looks and feels like the Nazi Army surrounding us all, remember the words of LTC Abrams. This is how I choose to face today’s challenges and get through these troubled times. Join me. Let’s relegate the poor bastards to the dustbin of history.