With each passing year, the spectre of the end of the Second World War is waning.
As of March 31, 2018 (the last date for which statistics are available) only 41,000 of the million people who served in the Canadian military during that war were still alive. The average age of those remaining service members was 93 a year ago. Royal Canadian Legion branches are closing, attendance at D-Day memorial parades are dwindling, and among members of the generations that followed what has been termed “the greatest generation,” the relevance of such things are becoming more difficult to grasp.
One week from today will mark the 75th anniversary of that day in 1944 when allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy ushering in the beginning of the end of the war.
Despite the fact it was so long ago and so far away, we must not become complacent because the forces of authoritarianism have never left us and they are mustering on both ends of the political spectrum.
We tend to think of the continuum of politics as a straight line from left to right, but it might be more accurately viewed as a horseshoe. As a straight bar of metal is bent into a horseshoe the ends get closer and closer together.
At first glance, extremists on the left and right appear very different, but their tendencies toward forcing thought and behaviour on the masses is all too similar.
George Orwell’s excellent novella Animal Farm is a concise and unnerving allegory for how populism turns into tyranny and the leaders of revolutions become indistinguishable from the tyrants they replaced.
This is what all those Canadians fought against all those decades ago on the beaches.
It can happen again.
It can happen here.
It is happening today.
This is why it is so important that we do not simply pay lip service to the commemoration of important anniversaries, but understand what they were all about.
Lest we forget.