Distinguishing between “commemoration” and “congratulations” shouldn’t be hard.
If, for example, you go to the cemetery to commemorate your mother’s death, you don’t expect your minister to congratulate you. You hope she will understand your lasting sense of loss.
Presidents should be held to the same standards. When Donald Trump was asked about the commemoration in Poland of the beginning of World War II (which he declined to attend), he said, “I send my congratulations.” Congratulations?
Three million Jews died in death camps as a result of the Nazi invasion. An additional million and a half non-Jewish Poles were exterminated. Many were cremated in ovens owned by for-profit private companies.
Those Poles who survived endured a living death at the direction of a dictator. They escaped the ovens, but not the misery.
When Poles stand in a moment of commemorative silence, they do not expect congratulations from the President of the United States. They expect he would be smarter than that.
Disclaimer: As submitted to the Arizona Daily Star.