Everyone knows about World War II. We’ve seen the grainy white on black film reels and heard the phonograph audio declaring war for the rights of man.
I never thought that I would see it so close.
Like a rain drop being sifted right through a pore in the skin of time and space, I was dropped unexpectedly at the feet of a stone tomb this summer, built to remember the American dead, covered in Belgian soil.
It’s called the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, and it’s located near the Belgian-German border.
It was a temple to the god of freedom, surrounded by his many sacrifices.
When we left, our direction was border country.
As we drove, I saw graffiti written in Flemish for the first time. It was black, scribbled over the words of a Belgian street sign. I asked a local about it.
He explained, “This town is technically in Belgium, whose official language is French. The people living in that town are Flemish speaking.”
The whole country is currently experiencing tension between Flemish and French-speaking citizens.
The proposed reasons are the same there as they are everywhere: prejudice, mistrust, jealousy… though I cannot claim to know the whole story.
Petitions had failed them in changing the signs to Flemish, the primary language of the town’s occupants, simply because it wasn’t the official language of the country.
In response, some frustrated locals had vandalized the street signs and written over them in their beloved language.
French and Flemish-speaking people believe in the rights of their own culture and language.
The earth that this town rests upon is an altar bowl which collected blood from thousands of dead Allies and Axis powers alike, so many years ago.
Upon hearing this explanation, I felt a numbing sensation.
Minutes before, I had been reading the story of different worlds uniting over this very soil, of French and Flemish, American and British, who believed in each other’s right to live free. I hoped it was true.
Now I beheld the flora grown from their dead flesh: disunity and
I cannot speak to the rightness or inhumanness of war, or of different political philosophies; I haven’t got the wisdom. I can only observe real lives.
I’ve read that God allowed the possibility of sin because he placed so much value in freedom for mankind, arguing that freedom of choice created the choice to love freely—hence true love existing.
The history of our world or our religion often echo like the screams of innocent children, of soldiers, of Jesus himself, dying in an empty room.
Remembering these stories helps us to comprehend the cross—Christ’s and ours.
Just before his death, Christ prayed for unity in love among men; maybe day-by-day we will learn how to fight for love, and to honor this last request of a dying friend.