A PERSONAL NOTE ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME AND BREXIT

A PERSONAL NOTE ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME AND BREXIT

By: Harry C. Blaney III
Reporting from London

David Cameron tours the Somme Exhibition in Thiepval, France and meets a group of British School Children.

Via Gov.UK

On July 1, 1916, Britain, France, and their allies fought in the historic and fierce battle of the Somme. It was the most mutually ruinous battle of World War I. Forces on both sides suffered horrible causalities. The first day of fighting was the most deadly day in British history with 57,470 causalities. On the hundredth anniversary, the ceremony was held at the British cemetery in France with a moving and impressive commemoration featuring all nations that participated 100 years ago. Heads of state and other leaders all came to pay their respects on that sad and tragic field.

The ceremony was one of extraordinary meaning and one could not help but be moved watching it. It was but a few years ago that I walked through the American cemetery overlooking the World War II beaches of Normandy, where the allies gained a foothold on the continent at a great cost. It was clear from my visit that America had made a great commitment for the freedom of Europe in order to ensure that another appalling World War would not face future generations.

What was most moving was the image of the line of tombstones with the music of choirs from Britain, France, Wales, and others including Germany in the background. There were moving remarks by the dignitaries that attended, including Prime Minister David Cameron, President of France Francois Holland, and Charles the Prince of Wales.

I could not but think, however, how peculiar these statements of comradeship, shared goals, and common struggle seemed against the background of the British vote to remove themselves from the inner center of Europe. One great irony of the day was that Cameron, who called the referendum but supported Remain, told the story told of how German troops at the Somme held their fire when a British solder moved through the line of battle to take a British wounded solder off a barbed wire fence.

The Brexit vote has already precipitated the rise of just those forces that so many died to abolish forever. The British vote to cut the ties with their common European brethren – their comrades in arms – just before they commemorated the cost of a war that could have been avoided if only the spirit of unity that created the EU could have found in the summer of 1914. Now those same dark forces are rising out of anger, racism, super-nationalism, and denial of our common humanity, both in Britain and on the continent.

My hope today is that in some way the lessons of the Somme might permeate into the consciousness of both Britain and the nations on the continent before it is too late.

More reports to come, focusing on the British referendum aftershocks, the rise of these divisive forces in Europe, and the resulting disarray of both major parties in British politics.

We welcome your comments!

See our Brexit Page for more up dates.

 

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2 thoughts on “A PERSONAL NOTE ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME AND BREXIT

  1. Harry C. Blaney III July 12, 2016 / 10:04 PM

    Pete,

    I find myself in agreement with your points and especially the fact that to many have demonized immigrants in America, Britain on the Continent. I thought that President obama’;s speech after the Dallas killings and at the recent NATO meeting outlined the importance of us all living together better and share our hope and understanding that we share the same humanity.

    Your efforts at outreach is an example that needs repeating in every community in America but also in Europe. The hope in both Britain and America is that t the polls and voting have shown the younger generation to be far more open to diversity and sense of common sharing and acceptance than our older generation. Which I hope is not true in reality.

    As you have pointed out America and Europe has benefitted by the talents brought to new countries by immigrants. But we need in the end to also address in a serious ways those in our countries that have been left behind and ensure they are fully integrated into our economy, with good jobs and good education – in short have real opportunity for themselves and their children. Then we will not have the rise of much anger and racism that has been generated by the likes of a Donald Trump, Farage in Britain, and Le Pen in France and the rest of the neo-fascists in far right European parties.

    One way for this to happen is to welcome those that do not look like us into our community as yo have done and the difference in their lives is indeed great.Perhaps then we many not have so many wars!!!

  2. Wesley Peter Peterson July 6, 2016 / 6:14 PM

    July 6, 2016

    Harry,

    Thanks for sending this. I find the problem in Europe to be very interesting. I don’t understand it as well as you, and certainly don’t understand all the nuances. It appears to me that there is a stream of immigrants to Europe from Muslim countries, including northern Africa, and Eastern Asia. I suspect these people are not as well educated as most Europeans either, but that is just a guess. They probably also don’t look a lot like English people.

    I think Donald Trump is mouthing separatist sentiments, which echo the thoughts of England on losing their appearance and culture. He doesn’t want any Muslims coming to the US, and wants Mexico to build a wall to keep the Mexicans home.

    I reflect on my own identity, and inclusion of non-Swedes, non-Danes in my family. My father was half Dane and half Swede. My mother was the oldest of 11. She was half Swedish, and half English, German and Dutch. Her brothers and sisters married a lot of different people One sister married a Jew, one married a Pole, and heaven forbid, one married an Italian. However, they were all welcome at our house, even the Italian. The son of my aunt and the Jewish man, joined the army and spent time in Taiwan, where he met his Chinese wife. On my wife, Mary’s side, her brother married a Canadian immigrant from England, and moved to Canada. They adopted a Black child, in addition to having a child of their own. Mary’s brother, John, is brilliant, and learned French and taught in a French language school in Montreal. Our own two children married standard mates with ancestry from Western Europe.

    Mary and I have mentored 10 young people, and one, from Vietnam, lived with us for 3 years, and just got his Doctorate in Osteopathy, in psychiatry, in June. The other kids we mentored were Swedish, undocumented from Mexico, African American, immigrants from Mexico (5–4 of whom spoke Spanish at home), and most recently African American.

    I initiated a program at the high school our grandchildren attended, and attend, which supplies mentors to children who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch, and don’t have a parent who graduated from college. I recruited 4 other people from the church to mentor a child. 2 weeks ago, we had the children we mentor, come to church, and the church gave that organization the entire donation from the offering. The students came to church, and they stood up with their mentors, when it came time for the offering. The speaker asking for the offering was Amie Blackman, a “rising” junior in high school, who is very Black. We received a lot of praise and adoration for mentoring these students, and signed up more mentors. (Our Universalist Church has a very few Black members, a few Latinos, and one Native American, and for sure, 1 and maybe 2 Asians.

    The African American 16 year old I now mentor is coming tomorrow, with an African American
    friend, to work in my yard. You never saw better workers! It’s OK, the family we share a back fence with, is a beautiful Black woman, TV newscaster, and her white husband, and 3 kids of various shades. And yes we did have the lot of them for supper, soon after they moved in.

    There, now you know more about our lives, than you wanted to know.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best,

    Pete Peterson

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