The new issue of Prospect (the British magazine) is out and is, as usual, a very impressive book. William I Hitchcock takes on something that I have long been suspicious of: the sentimental myth of “the greatest generaton” that Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Tom Brokow and especially the late historian Stephen Ambrose were instrumental in building up in the United States over the last few years.
Hitchcock says that the very selective narrative of the Second World War presented in the “greatest generation” lore has been mobilised lately in support of the present unpleasantness. And then this:
… [A]s American leaders invoke the glories of past wars, the actual number of Americans who have served in any branch of the military, or seen combat, or known anyone who was killed in combat, has dropped off sharply. And because so few Americans now have personal knowledge of war, we are that much more vulnerable to the temptations offered by an inflated rhetoric of heroism, guts and glory. It is telling that those Americans who do remember the second world war tend to oppose war with Iraq: a Los Angeles Times poll taken in January showed that, while 58 per cent of Americans supported sending troops to Iraq, only 35 per cent of those over 77 did so. Here is an awkward paradox: despite the president’s call to arms, the members of the “greatest generation” are those least willing to fall in line.</p> Oh yeah, and there’s also a profile of Richard Rorty by Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn and plenty of stuff on Iraq.
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