Out of the entire fiasco following the protests at Charlottesville, this has been the only thing that has irritated me to the point of feeling a need to initiate an outward complaint about it. I do so because it involves such a mind-numbing, almost catatonic lack of self-awareness and a complete disregard for historical coherency. Because unlike taking down monuments that glorify a cause, this involves outright distortion of our country’s history. Because it directly disparages WW2 veterans themselves, whom I have zero doubt would rather have a beer with ex-confederates than the utterly shameless cretins who are trying to co-opt their sacrifice for their political gain.
Let’s start with a short, very basic history lesson. The United States didn’t enter WW2 until December 7th, 1941, when it was directly attacked by the Axis member Japan at Pearl Harbor. In his 1940 re-election campaign Roosevelt had publicly stated that our involvement would be limited to aid, saying, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again; your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” American’s polled almost unanimously against allowing refugees from Europe into the United States. Throughout the war, thousands of Jews would be turned back to Europe in their boats because they were suspected of being ‘German spies’. Over a hundred thousand ‘Japs’ would be put in internment camps by the federal government for the same suspicions. According to an internal survey conducted in May, 1942- which you can read here- there was super-majority support for racial segregation within the U.S. military. Americans from this era would poll in majority favor of segregation and then against interracial marriage for decades to come. This is the “Greatest Generation” that would supposedly be first in line to “bash the fash” today.
My late great-grandfather, a WW2 veteran, confided in my family that he was astonished that a “nigger could become president” upon the election of Obama. He openly hated, bitterly, the kinds of left-wing activists that want ‘racist’ statues to be taken down, in spite of the fact he was a northerner. And those left-wing activists openly hated him, his generation, and almost everything he represented as a white man from that era. You can find endless posts on social media about how happy many people are about ‘old white men’ like him finally dying out, and people just like him got maced and assaulted at Trump rallies during the election. He went out and put his life on the line to fight against the Axis to prevent the world from falling under what he saw as tyranny, and he died feeling like this country was increasingly no longer something he could recognize as America.
In WW2 American soldiers fought for the idea of freedom enshrined in the constitution. Beating up up peaceful demonstrators protesting the removal of a monument, because they’re “Nazis”, is not a part of that ideal. To co-opt their name in support of violating their first amendment rights is repugnant. To equate landing at Normandy with being involved in a petty riot to suppress public demonstration is fucking shameful.