“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”. Winston Churchill
10 September, 2011. There comes a time when all the analysis must end and a simple act of remembrance undertaken. I remember the three thousand people of all nationalities, faiths and creeds who died that bright, bad day in Washington and New York. I remember the many tens of thousands of our young men and women who have sacrificed their lives to defeat Al Qaeda. I remember the many tens of thousands of believers in the great faith of Islam who have lost their lives and I honour them. I remember the brave men and women across the Middle East who today are dying to take their lives back from the corrupt, the intolerant and the downright evil. I also remember those many tens of thousands whose lives have been blighted by this sad decade. Now is the time to honour our fallen, and move on.
Tomorrow I will drive from the Netherlands to Britain through the great monuments of freedom’s struggle. I will pass Nieuwkirk which marked the end of the trenches in the 1914-1918 Great War when British, French and American forces fought side-by-side against the Kaiser’s autocracy alongside young men from across the world. I will drive on past Bray Dunes from which in 1940 the British Army was plucked in the miracle of Dunkirk only to return exactly four years later to defeat Nazism as part of the greatest armada in history. I will cross the Channel through the Tunnel, a concrete link between European powers that is as well the symbolic representation of a new Europe at peace with itself and the world. I will drive along the south coast of England under the very skies which in 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfires and Hurricanes defeated Hitler’s Luftwaffe ensuring the eventual defeat of the Nazis and in time the restoration of liberty across the whole of Europe.
For all the self-doubt, the many siren voices of decline and defeatism one hears the merest glance at a political map reveals a simple truth; having embraced Europe and defeated Soviet totalitarianism liberty is now marching beyond our Atlantic shores. It is marching across the Middle East and in time will ensure the defeat of violent extremism. Even when extremists lash out from time to time and may hurt us they can never defeat us.
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried”, Winston Churchill once famously quipped. There may be much wrong with our democracies and there certainly is. The professional political class in North America and Europe has become a self-licking lollipop. It spends too much time in arrogant self-contemplation and not enough time reflecting as to how it might better serve the people. And yes, our societies are changing profoundly causing friction and mistrust. And yet, all the massive majority of incomers want is the right to be Americans, Canadians or Europeans. We must never allow ourselves to be defined by any one race or religion. Indeed, if there is any one message from the roll call of fallen honour that marks Ground Zero that is it.
There is simply no other form of government or governance that comes close to democracy for it champions liberty and we are the champions of liberty. The fact that I have the right to be profoundly critical of my own British political class is a liberty I will exercise until my final breath. Indeed, speaking truth unto power is a right which defines us all. It is that which makes the democratic West the beacon of hope for millions in support of whom once again American, British and French forces are again risking their lives.
We have made mistakes since the fall of the twin towers and we should be always conscious of our many failings. We are superior to no-one. We must learn to learn better and be humble enough to admit our errors. We must better respect the choices of others if they are made free and fair. But, we must also remember that the world is a better place when the West is strong and we are united.
Justice, tolerance but above all liberty, are the proper memorials to our fallen. I for one remember them on this day; and in their honour look to a better future.
Requiescat in pace.