Gelernter on honoring the Greatest Generation


David Gelernter writes in Opinion Journal about the fulsome praise being heaped by the leftist media on World War II veterans. He says the vets deserve better than the repetition of a trite phrase: "If we cared about that war, the men who won it and the ideas it suggests, we would teach our children (at least) four topics." The four topics are "the major battles of the war, ... the bestiality of the Japanese, ... the attitude of American intellectuals, ... [and] the veterans' neglected voice." Names like Corregidor and Anzio should mean something to our children. The stories of those who fought should be as readily available as the memoirs of those who reported on the war. Regarding the intellectuals Gelernter writes:

Before Pearl Harbor but long after the character of Hitlerism was clear--after the Nuremberg laws, the Kristallnacht pogrom, the establishment of Dachau and the Gestapo--American intellectuals tended to be dead against the U.S. joining Britain's war on Hitler.

Today's students learn (sometimes) about right-wing isolationists like Charles Lindbergh and the America Firsters. They are less likely to read documents like this, which appeared in Partisan Review (the U.S. intelligentsia's No. 1 favorite mag) in fall 1939, signed by John Dewey, William Carlos Williams, Meyer Schapiro and many more of the era's leading lights. "The last war showed only too clearly that we can have no faith in imperialist crusades to bring freedom to any people. Our entry into the war, under the slogan of 'Stop Hitler!' would actually result in the immediate introduction of totalitarianism over here. . . . The American masses can best help [the German people] by fighting at home to keep their own liberties." The intelligentsia acted on its convictions. "By one means or another," Diana Trilling later wrote of this period, "most of the intellectuals of our acquaintance evaded the draft."

Why rake up these Profiles in Disgrace? Because in the Iraq War era they have a painfully familiar ring.

Dewey, of course, is the father of modern American public education.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing has answered the call by telling the story of the Battle of Midway and the brave men of Torpedo Squadron 8, all but one of whom flew to their deaths that day.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 4, 2004 11:28 PM.

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