The Persistance of Memory

The Guardian gets a lot of stick but, every now and again, they have some extremely fine writing. Here’s some.

Now we seem to think every terrorist attack puts us in the same rank of suffering as the generations of 1914-45. In reality, our century is, so far, an easy one for Europeans and Americans; to imagine we reel from our own little Verduns and Stalingrads is as dangerous as it is nonsensical.

I often wonder whether the reason that European attitudes about war are so different from American attitudes is because of the numbers. 58,249 in Vietnam vs 700,000 British in WW1 and 6 million Jews and 20 million Soviets in WW2.

3000 dead in Iraq is a terrible, terrible tragedy. But 20 million is a folk memory that will last for generations.

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

One thought on “The Persistance of Memory”

  1. >Now we seem to think every terrorist attack puts us in the same rank of suffering as the generations of 1914-45.

    We who? I’ve never heard anyone I know say anything of the sort.

    I do buy that sentiments for the biggest such losses the US has suffered can be perverted to political ends, which is real and wrong.

    If a mourner at the Vietnam memorial says that war that it was the greatest war ever leave him the hell alone, IMHO. I’d guess that someone he loved made the ultimate sacrifice, and the sacrifce on the battlefield of each of the millions in the Russian Great Patriotic War aren’t any more ultimate. Dead is dead, and the numbers in aggregate aren’t relevant to this context.

    It don’t need to be in poor taste for New Yorkers want to mourn their dead with a big monument. It doesn’t need to invalidate the memory of the Somme or Hiroshima.

    The author isn’t proposing that we tear down monuments to what are just trivial little provincial events – I know. But there are more effective ways of saying that really big wars suck than the tact he took. If I bought his premise that we “reel from our own little Verduns and Stalingrads” then I’d probably agree with the rest of what he said – but not only do I not see it, I don’t believe it’s the dominant view.

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