Friday, March 16, 2007

Lest We Forget

I was showing an American friend who is leaving the UK around London for the last time. He pointed up at St Paul's and said that in his three years living here he had never visited the cathedral. So we went in.

Of course, Wren's masterpiece is one of the most spectacular buildings in the world, befitting its status as the cathedral of the capital. The Dome with its spectacular views; the Crypt, containing the tombs of many of the great and good of British History all help to give a visit to St Paul's a sense of occasion.

However, perhaps the most moving part of the cathedral is the American memorial chapel at the east end, behind the High Altar. It honours American servicemen and women who died in the Second World War and was dedicated in 1958. It was paid for entirely by donations from British people and the roll of honour contains the names of more than 28,000 Americans who gave their lives while on their way to, or stationed in, the United Kingdom during the Second World War. The three chapel windows feature themes of service and sacrifice, while the insignia around the edges represent the American states. The panelling incorporates a rocket - a tribute to America's achievements in space. It is a quiet and heartfelt homage to the sacrifices that Americans were prepared to make to defend the idea of freedom against Fascism.

In the crypt is a memorial to an American hero, Billy Fiske, who volunteered to fight with the RAF in 1939, breaking the American neutrality laws, but who was the first American casualty- dying in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

My colleague and I were very thoughtful. Proud of the depth of the roots of the alliance between Britain and America, and fiercely angry that that the arrogance and stupidity of President George W. Bush have damaged even such a deep friendship.

4 comments:

Tabman said...

Cicero - if you ever have a spare moment, try picking up Derek Robinson's "Piece of Cake". Robinson based one of his characters (CH3 - Christ Hart III) loosely on Fiske.

Anonymous said...

Cicero, how in any respect can you hoipe to "win" an election. I don't think even the most deranged Lib Dem optimist thinks you will outpoll in votes one of trhe big two in the near future, not now the Tory party has recovered from its post 97 nervous breakdown, and Labour do not quite appear to be desceding into their mid 80s madness. We will have to agree to disagree, but even under your criteria should one of the big two fall fom their pdestal you will not breach 50% of the vote.

Two other things for you. First, you have every right to criticse your opponents. Where I take issue is your attempt to conflate them all together. There are many Tory Libertarians, I am amazed at being told sympathising with Conservatism makes individuals Big Brother supporters. Also if people give money to charity, I don't like your implication that makes them "paternalist." Take issue Cicero if you wish, but perhaps revert to the sort of critique that acknowledges the world is a little more complicated than you say it is.

Finally the last ICM polls was interesting. Tories and LIb Dems both doing well, and not as usually historically at one or others expense. Perhaps that historic inverse link has been broken.

Lepidus.

Anonymous said...

Cicero, don't lay all the blame at the hands of Dubya. Mr Blair played his part too.

James said...

Mr. Blair has simply jumped at the appropriate moments, and although I do condemn him over his decisions, he lacks the arrogance that has been the hallmark of the 43rd President and which has led him to catastrophe.

Lepidus- I think you oversimplfy in response. I am very well aware of the differing strands of Conservatism, what I am making a critique of is the current leadership. The Cameroons are big state Conservatives, and as such they have a more than passing resemblance to big state Labourites. The fact that there are "social entreprenuers" amongst the ranks of the Cameroons, does not alter the fact that the very language that they use is couched in "de haute en bas" terms- totally paternalist.

I am very much aware that many Conservatives are not only disappointed, but actually outraged, by this big state approach. Many of my Tory friends are quite happy to admit that they agree more with me than with their own leader. Partly as a result, and acknowledging always that party politics seems to be down there with cheese rolling and morris dancing as an interest of the majority, I do not rule out the idea that the Liberal Democrats could gain enough traction to overtake the other parties.

History is littered with things that seem inevitable in hindsight, but that most people said could never happen. In my lifetime the most striking change in British politics has been the emergence of an ever larger group of voters that reject both Labour and Conservative: and the prime beneficiearies have been the Liberal Democrats.