My mother in law and her current husband spent the weekend at our house. It was a pleasant visit except for a single bizarre political “discussion” I was forced to have with the husband. He is one of those guys who is milking every last drop of his nation’s gratitude out of his WW2 service. His whole octogenarian life centers on the VFW and the VA (he was largely deafened by artillery and strained his back in the war). He conveniently forgets that he was conscripted and compelled to serve against his will at the time, and now he reckons that his generation was so much better than the present one because they understood that sacrifice was necessary to preserve freedom, whatever that means.
Now he opines that America has to “finish the job” in Iraq. I asked him how he would know when the job was finished and whether he could give me a hint as to what the “job” entailed in the first place, and he replied that the government was the best judge of that and would let us know. He figured conscription would be a good idea since young people these days (including his own grandchildren, I suppose) aren’t willing to sacrifice for the community and answer the call to arms.
“Greatest generation”, my ass. Being mobilized and ordered around by a totalitarian military for years on end had to have an impact on them. These guys learned collectivism in the war and spent the next half-century making sure that America was good and collectivized. They’re the ones who brought us the military industrial complex and the welfare state. Worst of all, their perpetual claims on martial glory and honor in a so called “good” war enable warmongers even today to lie about war and tempt naïve young men and women into military service.
My uncles were WW2 combat vets, and I honor their memories and service because (a) they never demanded to be honored or to be given triumphal parades, and (b) they always told the unvarnished truth about war. These other old men who turn out every Memorial Day to rob the dead of some of their “glory” and every Veterans Day to demand more gratitude and praise, in contrast, frankly disgust me.
I told my step-father-in-law that I thought WW2 had been unnecessary and that all his efforts and those of his comrades had gone for naught. After all, at the end of the war, we had traded one set of murderous dictators for another set, and we never demobilized and returned to normal. I thought the old guy’s head would explode. All he could say was that we would be speaking German if it weren’t for his generation.