Remembering the Noble Enemy
Board: Macro Economics
"...By 1914, 100 years after the British burned the U.S. capital, the U.S. was an ally and came to the defense of Great Britain in 2 World Wars..."
However, I need to find a humorous twist to the story. I will add, though, that the Brits didn't get off 'scott free'. Apparently, while they held D.C., they were whacked by a storm which, in retrospect, and by eyewitness accounts was a rather strong tornado.
Wendy, you mentioned something so very important, the lead quote up top, so I offer this little story which I hope suffices until I can sojourn somewhere.
I loved bicycling. It was more than exercise. Wendy, you know Brooklyn, right? My favorite route was from my home in Bensonhurst, down 14 Avenue all the way to Prospect Park,(survive getting around the circle), loop the park, and then exit through Grand Army Plaza onto the bicycling side of Ocean Parkway, (crossing a few blocks down from that circle), then clear down to Manhattan Beach. From there, I'd neander my way back home.
I learned that it was wonderful to be lost on a bicycle. By the time I left Brooklyn, I had every nook and cranny mapped in my head!
After graduation in June of 1981, (in the middle of the last great recession since the Great Depression) I moved out to Long Island, managing to take all my worldly possessions with me in two duffle bags. The bicycle served as a cart.
Long Island was all new unexplored territory. So on one ride heading out towards Montauk I saw what I thought was someone cleaning a headstone at the edge of a cemetery. My journey was rewarded. It was an art student making 'rubbings' of these very old headstones. She didn't seem to mind the company and just went on and on and on about headstone carvings. Quite fun, actually. Did you know that you can date a worn headstone by the angel carvings? I digress.
I gazed around an noticed that the cemetery was dotted with American Flags. "There's a lot of veterans here", I remarked when she took a breath. "Revolutionary vets", she replied. Indeed, they were. Thus began a my rather curious hobby of strolling through graveyards, very respectfully, to look for and study the old headstones as a way to sojourn through local history. The best are the ones around which the towns of their descendents have sprouted up. I've discovered a few markers in New Jersey dating back to the 17th century!
I've become good at spotting them. Look in back of an old local church for what seems like an unkempt backyard. I've often let myself in, leaving my bicycle propped up at the gate so as to alert the minister just in case he should stroll out, which never happened. I let my mind sojourn back while studying a weather worn stone. A much different time. No sounds of traffic or lawn equipment or passing overhead jetliners. Cicadas, birdsongs and the rustle of late summer foliage ruled the air. This church stood alone once. There were woods all around. A dirt road. The founder's horse and buggy. A chicken coop and a small garden. When the bell rang it would be heard for miles. The faded names on the stone were once crisp cut. The memory of life of the interred still a part of the congregation. They certainly must have thought this place beautiful.
Like that deja vu feeling we've all experienced, so help me when I do that it feels like I actually glimpsed, just for a fleeting instant, a late summer afternoon of that different lost world of say, 24 August 1680 something.
So my odyssey takes me to Monmouth County, N.J. More new territory to explore, and sure enough, while being lost I stumble into Fort Hancock, now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Originally a 18th century fort, one of many, built to defend Raritan Bay and New York's lower bay leading to Perth Amboy. The Fort went through a series of renovations over 200 years into its final configuration as a Nike missile base in the 1960s.
So on one return trip to explore the park, I happen to notice what seemed like an unkempt garden, tucked away with small American flags and Union Jacks at the base of a headstone.
It was a gravesite. Not the original, though. The interred remains were moved to make room for the road leading into the Fort. I must have passed it a dozen times and each time my curiosity tugged at the handlebars. I'm glad that I finally gave in to that tug. It was around the 4th of July. You'll see in the photo that short, straight path leading up to the stone: "...Here lie the remains of the Honorable Hamilton Douglass Haliburton, son of the Earl of Morton..."
http://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com/new_jersey_revoluti... (scroll down a bit)
I tried, but my mind wouldn't wander. It couldn't glimpse the past. My mind wouldn't grasp it. What my mind did glimpse, though, was how respectful and caring, (albeit slightly overgrown being a few days after the 4th, a busy time in the park), with flowers and those small flags. This wasn't for tourist to see. It was a quiet dignified and peaceful place, well out of sight unless one knew where to look.
And I thought as you did. What an absurdity! We were at war with the nation which, now, for over a century our closest ally! What point was there in fighting that war? Was there no other way? Here was the son of an Earl! A person of his stature could have easily 'begged off' military duty. Yet he defended his cause and we fought for our cause in a war which would eventually lead our two nations towards a common cause.
Haliburton was defending an empire at a time we have dubbed the enlightenment. It was a new dawn for the Americans, who must have spoken the King's English also, accents and all. It made me think that maybe not all wars are worth fighting. The First World War was a tangle of alliances unravelled by a disenfranchised assassin's bullet. A completely unwarranted and avoidable war which was the root cause of the cataclysmic and necessary war that was to follow. Within a span of 35 years tens and tens and of millions of lives extinguished in the most horrendous ways. Tens and tens of millions because of one person who, convinced he was morally right, took matters into his own hand.
One person knocked over the first of a three-quarter century long line of dominos whose last domino might have been the end of civilization itself.
Yet today, the United States of America, the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Japan, with a few minor faux pas along the way, get along swimmingly. The same is true of Vietnam. I've read that we're hoping to establish a Naval Base in Vietnam. Imagine! The US Navy in Haiphong Harbor as an ally!!! Dwight D. Eisenhower once remarked that the outcome of war is unpredictable. How correct he was.
Yet Eisenhower understood the necessity of all out war having lead allied forces against what was an evil, insane madness that unleashed itself across Europe and Asia.
We might be witnessing the rise of a maniacal and mindless evil again in the middle east which has at its root, ironically, one delusional person who presented himself as a hero to those impoverished, uneducated and disenfranchised.
After this past 4th of July, I drove out to Sandy Hook. (I don't bicycle that much anymore since I had my hip replaced.) I didn't want to miss a summer visit to the British Soldier's resting place. How unimaginable! These were the enemy! We were their enemy. How futile it all was. Did they gave their lives to defend a system of government that was too slow to change? Or perhaps they died for a people with a destiny, which those dedicated 'red coats' could not glimpse in their wildest imaginings.
It's an odd feeling. Being grateful that they did what they did for the wrong reasons and then admiring their courage, bravery and dedication.
I guess that, on occasion, the memories of a noble enemy should be honored, especially when they have stepped up to meet the challenge of the future.
Then there's the kind of enemy who rightfully deserve to lie dead in unmarked graves and whose memory serves at best as a warning that the wars we fight must be carefully chosen and well thought out.
Your haunted Fool,
To bad we don't have the opinion of Sonny Page; a dedicated, honorable soldier.