Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nana Remembers

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

The spouse likes to watch the History Channel.  Around our house it's called the Hitler channel because every other program is a documentary about the second world war.  On a lazy Sunday afternoon we found ourselves watching yet another documentary, The Third Reich: The Fall.  The program told the story of the the fall of the Third Reich through home movies taken by Germans both civilians and soldiers. 

At the start of the program there were warnings about graphic images, but the beginning of the documentary focused on the lives of civilian Germans. There were home movies of families on holiday and children's birthdays interspersed with footage taken by German occupation soldiers in Paris.  Beautiful, smiling families watched toddlers take their first steps and Nazi troops looked like tourists at the Eiffel Tower.  In the early part of the war life in Germany was little changed.  There were no shortages of food or goods and the population enjoyed prosperity fueled by the profits of war from neighboring countries. Both the German civilians and the military were unaware of the death, destruction, and misery that lay ahead.

It was at this point in the documentary that I remembered the quotation about the lessons of the past.  I wondered if we are at that same point in our history.  We enjoy the highest standard of living in the world.   We want for nothing.  Yes, we'd all like to earn more money and pay less taxes, but most of us do not go to bed hungry.  We are safe and our children are educated.  Yet, we are fighting wars on three fronts.  We are at war, but our everyday life in unchanged. Most of us are untouched by the current military actions.  Most of us do not have an immediate family member in the military.  We have rained death and destruction on three fronts, but our lives are unaffected.

I was unnerved by the parallels of history.  How many of us have home videos of toddlers taking their first steps?  I bet our soldiers home on leave are taking videos at amusement parks.  I wonder if we are blind to the consequences of war because we have not learned from the past.

I voted for Obama in part because of his anti-war stance.  Three years later the war has expanded.  When will we ever learn?


  1. Very interesting, Nana. The worst things that ever happened, developed one small step at a time. When we are watching in real time, it is easy not to take note of the changes happening all around us.

  2. It's so true, Nana. The fact that I see my country as a force for evil in the world is so distressing I mostly block it out. Obama is better than McCain and Palin would have been on the war front, I have absolutely no doubt. But turning a war machine into a peace machine cannot be done by anybody. Only a revolution.

  3. I don't know if we ever will learn. I'm just wrapping up a class right now, American Literature to 1865, and let me tell you, the parallels aren't just to the WW's, our expansion of war and effect on the families involved dates back to the earliest of settlements here (in this country I'm talking, sooooo much earlier around the globe!). The trouble is that the old cliche that 'power corrupts' happens to ring true because it is true. Want another? Give us an inch, we want a mile. And yes, we simply take it because from all I've read, that's what our country has been predisposed to since before the dawn of this country. It stinks. But how can we change it? No matter who we vote for there is still a person in power. The reason I too liked Obama is because he seemed to genuinely care about the citizens of this country. And I think he truly still does but sadly, the next cliche that 'one man can change the world' really can't ring true when that one man isn't allowed to change the world because the rest of the world likes it the way it is.

    On a lighter note we're fans of the History channel too but tend to lean toward shows like American Pickers and Pawn Stars. You get all the historical references but with an injection of humor :-)

  4. I rarely watch such documentaries. I am sure history repeats itself, especially when we don't learn.

  5. greed it just boils down to greed. We as a nation need to learn to be satisfied, and to put more emphasis on those around us, instead of our wants.

  6. If you had the answer to that question, I'd vote for you for president!

  7. I doubt we ever will learn. I've been listening to some Sarah Vowell's books and she does a great job of drawing parallels between the past and the present ...so much so that you wonder if we have ever progressed!

  8. I doubt we ever will learn. I've been listening to Sarah Vowell's books recently and she is a master at drawing parallels between the past and our present.

  9. I don't even know how to "rationalize" to my kids in any way the role that the U.S. as an agent of war. It is disheartening and alarming. I pray that somehow the leaders of our country will let their thinking evolve towards more pacifist approaches to conflict.


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