World War II: 80th anniversary

“We must suffer them all again”

World War IIIt will be eighty years come September 1 since World War II began. I have a strong sense that a lot of folks in the US, in particular, have no idea. It’s in part because lots of Americans are oblivious to history. And if they know anything about WWII, it’s Pearl Harbor, which didn’t take place until 27 months later.

When I was younger, I glibly understood that a reason for WWII was that the victors of World War I treated the Germans poorly. The Britannica seems to concur. “The war was in many respects a continuation, after an uneasy 20-year hiatus, of the disputes, left unsettled by World War I.”

In fact, most of the 1930s felt like a precursor of the Second World War: Japan invading China, Italy taking over Ethiopia, Germany annexing Czechoslovakia, etc.

Or maybe earlier: on November 8, 1923, there was the Beer Hall Putsch, when Adolf Hitler unsuccessfully led the Nazis in an attempt to overthrow the German government. Though it was crushed by police the next day, less than a decade later, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

Six and a half years after that, the war in Europe began, as Germany invaded Poland. Britain and France responded by declaring war on Germany. Thus began the deadliest military conflict in history, with at least 50 million killed directly by the war and at least 20 million perishing as a result of war-related disease and famine

I am, as is John Green (no relation), uncertain and afraid about the war then and how it may parallel what’s going on now.

So John thinks about the W. H. Auden poem September 1, 1939. Though Auden later repudiated his own work as overly sentimental, it became quite popular.

After 9/11, this couplet was analyzed on National Public radio:
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief,
We must suffer them all again

Auden particularly rejected the sentimentality of the last line of the penultimate verse. Yet it is that line that gives me both hope and despair: We must love one another or die.

America redux, and not knowing everything

I shake my head sadly, looking to the ground mournfully, showing pity to these poor deluded fools.

Mr. Frog, in the comments:

Interesting that your daughter goes back to the things that scare her. I do that, too. Have you ever seen Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal? I was so afraid of that movie–despite it being one of my favorites–until literally a few months ago. I should write about that…

No, I haven’t. I’m not sure why, exactly, but when it came out, it just didn’t appeal to me, so I never even wanted to see it. It seemed, from a trailer, maybe, to be too…dark? By now, it had all but left my consciousness. I wouldn’t NOT see it, but it isn’t on the list of films I must watch, though you’ve made it more interesting to me. Wouldn’t watch it with the Daughter, though, until I had seen it first.
And yes, you should write about it.

Another example for me is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. I HAVE written about that: at age 5, it scared me so bad I was basically traumatized. But I became fascinated by stuff like UFOs, which led me to reading books about ACTUAL science. Then when it was re-released when I was 9, I loved it, and now it’s my favorite movie. It makes me cry badly, but in a cathartic way.

Odd thing about that film. Saw E.T. at the time and loved Drew Barrymore screaming, loved the classic Spielberg broken family, anti-authority motifs, even the Reese’s Pieces product placement. I just didn’t like the ending, the bikes in the sky thing, and I haven’t ever seen it since then, so I could not specifically tell you why. I was willing to believe the alien, but not that. It played at the local second-run theater, the Madison, in early April, but I just didn’t have time to see it. And I would rather have seen it like that then on video.

(Sidebar: there was some story on CBS Sunday Morning recently about the decline in the movie box office. Some twenty-something they interviewed was so smug. “I can watch movies at home. I can pause it when ever I want to…” And if you can pause it, for me, it isn’t watching a movie; it’s watching a video – I use the term generically.)
politicalspeech

If I can ask a follow-up to Jaquandor’s question about America: do you worry that it’s too late to change course? I don’t want to get too doomsday about it, I’ve just been reading too many things lately that seem to be adding up to a depressing future. Of course, I have mental disorders and that seems to be the way I process things a lot of time (“catastrophizing” is what my therapist calls it).

Is it catastrophizing when the levee has broken? On one very big hand, the news is grim. We live in an oligarchy. It’s not just that economic disparity is unfair; it doesn’t make much economic sense. Continue reading “America redux, and not knowing everything”

I is for Iceland

The area of Iceland is about the size of Virginia or slightly larger than Ireland.

There were two things that particularly fascinated me about Iceland, one as a child, the other as an adult. The childhood recollection is that the explorers named Greenland and Iceland as they did to throw others off about the beauty of Iceland. Apparently, this was not true. Still, despite its latitude, Iceland is relatively moderate in temperature because of the Gulf Stream.

The other is that the population is so relatively homogenous that scientists believe Iceland’s population, a mixture of descendants of Norwegians and Celts, should make it a good place to investigate the genetics factors involved in human disease, Continue reading “I is for Iceland”