Saturday, June 15, 2013

Can we all just get along?

World War II ended in the popular imagination when the troops came home to victory celebrations and reunions. There may have been a lot of these in the U.S., but the war was much too big and too tragic in Europe for there to be simple endings.  This fact is well documented by Keith Lowe in his Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II.

From the Conclusion: "There were many reasons not to love one's neighbor in the aftermath of the war ... The sheer variety of grievances that existed in 1945 demonstrates not only how universal the war had been, but also how inadequate is our traditional way of understanding it ..."  Communists and nationalists have exploited these grievances with tragic results. Ethnic cleansing in the the former Yugoslavia is fresh in our memories, but massive ethnic cleansings had been in force before 1945, after 1945 and through most of the 20th century.  Ethnically "pure" nation states had been a goal for many groups for many years.  Current economic crises in Europe provide new openings for the demagogues.  In comparison, our own immigration debates seem pretty tame.

"Can we all just get along?" Perhaps. But first we have to (all) learn and digest enough history. Lowe's book is, in my view, a great place to begin.

Many movies simply build on the cliches of history. But there are some that are worthy because they prompt deeper reflections. I liked these: Lore, Inheritance, Worse Than War.