A History Lesson.
As a bored member of the 9-5 club, I have ample time to surf the internet and check out other blogs. I find some that are funny, some that are boring, some that make me think, and some that make me think “Did this person get an education EVER?” Today, I was on a wordpress blog that fights Anti-Americanism. This blogsite, Waging a War Against Anti-Americanism in This Post discussed a Facebook profile created by some Brits about how much America sucks and how horrible Americans are and how much more superior the British are. They include various reasons, including our methods of spelling, and our (lack of) culture, etc, etc. It is very insulting to an American to see this (as it was meant to be, I’m sure), and I would hope that no American feels that way about their own country (because if they do, they should move to another country and see if it’s any better). While it would be incredibly easy to combat every single thing these idiots said, what really got me was the blatant misrepresentation of history on this site. I have reproduced them below so I don’t have to keep gracing that site with my illustrious presence in an effort to argue against them (as much as I hate to do so, you can access the site here):
“6) They claim to have ‘saved our ass’ in two wars. Before anyone tries to claim this:
WW1: they gave us almost no help, and only joined when the Germans sank many of their ships and tried to persuade the Mexicans to invade Texas
WW2: they refused to join, left us to deal with Hitler, and gave us no help. They SOLD us help, but that wrecked our economy after the war, which is why we’re no longer a superpower. Then they joined the war because Japan attacked THEM and Germany declared war on THEM.
Here’s the thing: as the WWII generation continues to die, and the events of the “War to End All Wars” grow more and more distant in the collective memory, the facts about this era begin to get garbled. The events of WWI have been completely eclipsed by what happened after. One of the issues is that, since WWII was so horrible and survivors refused to discuss it, we don’t have as many first-hand accounts as we would like – especially regarding issues like the Holocaust, and the atrocities committed against the Chinese by the Japanese in the name of nationalism. Don’t get me wrong, the advances in technology have given us more information than we thought possible, but the secrecy of the initial stages of the war have allowed a lot of people to become confused.
I don’t have as much historical knowledge of the events leading up to and including WWI. I have, however, studied extensively the takeover of the Nazis leading to WWII as well as the war itself. My stance on the matter (as a historian and an American) is that the entrance of the US into WWII signaled the beginning of the end of the Axis Powers. That being said, the US could not have won the war on its own. The only way the Allies won the war was through the joint collaboration of all the members – Great Britain, the US, the USSR and France (kind of). And that is historical fact.
It’s interesting because I have heard it the other way around too. I have heard Americans argue that the US could have won the war without anyone else’s help. That is a complete fallacy, just as the idea that the Allies didn’t need US aid (monetarily, militarily, etc) throughout the war is also a complete fallacy. I think that in this precarious political and economic climate, people are so willing to jump on any historical reference they can find to justify how they feel about a certain group of people. And if they can’t find it, historical fact is manipulated to suit whatever is being argued.
But let me get a couple things straight. Without a thorough understanding of the events and the reasons behind those events, no opinion should be made about what happened in the time period from 1914-1945. It is a very complicated time in the world’s history and people study it for years without truly knowing everything about it. To assume that you can make statements about that time period without really knowing the history is completely ignorant and totally arrogant. Added to this is the fact that FDR’s FBI files still have not been released because of the laws regarding their release. There was a lot of secrecy before WWII, and stuff going on in backrooms that historians can only guess at.
So before you let your rabid nationalism/patriotism (from Americans, Brits and everyone else) skew your perception of what actually happened in the beginning of the 20th Century, try to actually read up on it first. And don’t think that what you learned in high school history (or secondary school history depending on where you are) is enough – far from it.
I won’t deny that I am proud to be an American, but almost as importantly, if not more so, I am a historian, and it must be remembered that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.