The world as we would wish it to be is not a world in which Syria is bleeding, the Chinese are increasing the rate of annual military spending by a double-digit percentage, the Arab Spring is turning to an Islamist winter, Europe is imploding economically, and Iran is brazening its way to a nuclear bomb. That world is the real world, and it is the world the rest of us inhabit: the world of the concrete fact, the world of the worsening circumstance. It is the world in which decisions are made harder, not easier, by delay, in which delay increases the chances of failure, and of death.
It is a world choked with pity, yet pitiless.
In short, it is the world of the fourth of June—the fourth of June as it really was, and as we should try to remember it. It is the world as we find it when we have given up illusions. But it is also a world to seize.
Seventy years ago, in June 1942, the Nazis took revenge for the killing of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague by murdering the entire village of Lidice, in Czechoslovakia. Edna St. Vincent Millay memorialized that massacre—and its meaning for America—in a poem.
Oh, my country, so foolish and dear,
Scornful America, crooning a tune.
Think, Think: are we immune?
Catch him, catch him and stop him soon!
Those lines were written when it was already too late for Lidice, too late for European Jewry, and nearly too late for the United States. They ought to remind us: Time is rarely on our side. Hard choices can’t be avoided without hard consequences. The world doesn’t wait. Act, act, before it’s too late.
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