In a thoughtful column in today's Independent, Mary Dejevsky strikes a note that I took issue with a few weeks ago when something similar appeared in a Guardian leader. She's discussing the new memorial to Bomber Command, and she writes:
Another war memorial offers another excuse for just the sort of nostalgic wallowing in our glory days that today's Britain most emphatically does not need.
But one does not have to put it under that sign, so to speak - of glory days and wallowing. One can think of it under another sign, as we may do by referring to the 20th century's preeminent witness and one of its great writers, Primo Levi. Levi said of what he and others had gone through at the hands of the Nazis that 'One is tempted to turn away with a grimace and close one's mind; this is a temptation one must resist'. He wrote of the difficulty, for him and others who had survived the camps, of speaking to the young about their experiences; they risked sounding anachronistic and not being listened to. Yet 'We must be listened to', he insisted.
Is this the wrong - an inappropriate - sign under which to place the matter? I don't see why. The Allied victory in the Second World War is, in one way of thinking about things, the most important event of the last century. Without it, who knows what? To memorialize the crews who flew, and the thousands of them who lost their lives, in the war against Nazi Germany is not the least bit exorbitant even 70 years later; particularly since, as Dejevsky herself notes, the memorial acknowledges the innocent victims of the bombings as well as the crews.