I recently saw a news broadcast discussing and showing the victory day celebration in Moscow, Russia to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Every year multiple European countries celebrate this momentous event, while here in America we resign the remembrance over tyranny with a kicker at the end of a news broadcast.
I have personally always had a fascination with World War II. When I was a kid it was about the guns, battles and the villains who perpetrated the largest conflict known to man.
The older I become, the more I realize our modern world was built in the aftermath of that conflict, and on the backs of those who fought it.
But it amazes me that most people today can barely give one fact about the war.
World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history and had more than 70 to 85 million deaths, which was 3 percent of the world’s population at the time.
The cost of life was one that we should never forget, as the world found itself in the middle of a coin flip during those years. Would the world and civilization land on the side of democracy? Or would the world fall to tyranny under the yolk of fascism?
The world decided as a whole that the empires of Japan and Nazi Germany could not stand. Have we learned from our history?
I believe in many ways we have learned from the Second World War, such as the end of expansionist conflicts to the formation of the United Nations.
But in many ways we have forgotten the horrors that World War II brought with it. The Holocaust is the biggest one, as there are those who would deny the very plain evidence in front of their faces that those crimes against humanity ever existed.
Recently Europe has been seeing a rising number of nationalistic movements from the far-right move into place. Some but not all of these movements proudly display Nazi symbols and yell Nazi slogans that haven’t been part of the public since the brown shirt marches of the late 1930s.
They deny the Holocaust and use the same bigoted anti-semitic tropes in similar ways to Nazis.
But the problem isn’t just Europe, where Neo-Nazi groups have been on the rise, it has been happening in America as well. While it’s easy to point the finger at a president who spreads a hateful message, we also need to read a little history.
Consider the many grandparents of today who lived through the war and those who fought in it. Those who fought then now see Americans wearing swastikas with pride, reveling in the hateful Nazi ideology.
My late grandpa, Shirley Fowler, fought in Europe during WWII. While he never mentioned his personal experience to any of his eight kids nor any of his grandkids, all of us have the same reaction when we see the symbol he fought so hard to destroy flying freely here in America.
Whether it’s a Nazi swastika in someone’s yard, or a patch on a jacket or tattoos, that symbol and those who wear it go against everything our and maybe their grandparents went over there to fight.
It spits in the face of all those who fought and died to make sure that the symbols of hate like the Nazi swastika have no place in this world or at the very least not in this country.
When people are encouraged that hate is OK and national and racial zealotry is normalized, we have forgotten what the world fought to stop in World War II.
It was the bloodiest and most horrific conflict in history, as I mentioned before, but it is also the most important conflict in modern time, because it set the world stage as it is today.
As the philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Later paraphrased by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to give us a warning of this very thing.
The world again waits to see where we land on the next big coin toss to change our lives. Will it be through another worldwide conflict? Or can we set aside the silly differences that divide us and learn from the past and do better?