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The Greatest Generation

Tom Brokaw’s book is a collection of the modest stories of modest people involved with a great enterprise.  They are generally what we would call ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances and who adapted and contributed to the American effort to defeat the Axis powers in WWII.

t’s really a book of saints where common men and common women are sanctified.

It’s as if to say that we United Statesians are all great and only need to step on the stage of great events for our greatness to become apparent and be written about by some champion of journalism.

In none of the stories do any of the saint-like figures ever make even the slightest mistake, ever deviate from their determined path toward perfect modesty and honor.

No mention of the millions of civilians killed by American and British bombing raids, no mention of the war rape that gleefully accompanies all invading armies, no mention even of the selfish and deliberate ignorance of our senior government officials who allowed the war to begin in the first place, no mention of the support for Hitler among the British and American aristocracy (Joseph Kennedy and the Duke of Windsor, for example) no mention of the phony war in Europe, and the decades-long rape of Korea and China.

The book ignores far more things than it upholds.  We could find in the enemy equivalent personalities with equivalent virtues of modesty and diligence and courage and sacrifice and would say that they too belong to the greatest generation.  After all the German soldiers who tried to push through the winter to Moscow must have displayed many examples of heroic behavior and the Soviet army, with its deprivations and its enormous tasks must necessarily have produced great sacrifice.  The Soviet Union lost 30,000,000 people to WWII.

But that would be celebrating virtue in general and the book would not sell so well.  Besides, in empire, everything is about empire.  Even its revolutionaries are fascinated by its exploits, even if only to decry them.

The book is about American virtue.  It rationalizes American foreign policy and implies that we must face bravely and unconsciously the New American Century.  The most interesting things about the book are what is left out and its best-seller status.  We applaud our ignorance.

How can you think out of the box if you don’t know you’re in a box?


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