Prime Minister Winston Churchill announcing the surrender of German forces, May 8, 1945. Imperial War Museum photo.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill announces the surrender of German forces on the BBC, May 8, 1945. Imperial War Museum photo.

Very few of us alive today remember the elation of May 8, 1945.  My parents weren’t even born yet, and my grandparents are no longer alive to tell the story.  But that doesn’t mean the celebration is lost to time.  For just a moment, pause to reflect on what was done, and what was still left to be done on that spring morning 72 years ago.

Perhaps* the greatest-ever threat to humanity had finally been vanquished after six long years.  Millions of survivors could again pursue their hopes and creams.  We could envision happiness once again, rather than destruction and bloodshed.

Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)
Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

And still, the job wasn’t done.  The Empire of Japan would hold on for another three months (or four, depending on how you calculate), only surrendering after two strikes of the most terrible weapon devised by humankind.

But despite that, VE Day will always be one of my favorite commemorations.  It’s not a holiday, but it is certainly cause for a smile and quiet contemplation of the optimism that finally dawned on Europe, after the darkness was defeated.

Perhaps it is no small coincidence that the French Republic yesterday beat back a latter-day iteration of the same ideology that gripped Italy in the 1920s and Germany in the 1930s.  Kudos to France for recognizing the modern xenophobic trend for what it is: fascism– pure and simple.  A vigilant watch is the only way to prevent its return to power.

My congratulations to President-Elect Macron (who shares my birthday)…

Bonne chance, monsiuer.  Gardez bien la démocratie et la liberté.

* I always feel it necessary to point out that Stalin, not Hitler, was the great butcher of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.  This is not to cast Hitler in a positive light– not at all.  But Stalin frequently gets a pass because we were allied with the Soviets; without them on our side, Hitler would have run the table, and a swastika would still fly over Buckingham Palace.  I’m still not sure who was worse.