Sanitizing the History of War

Not so pithy but I felt this was important to share on both blogs.

Pithy History

The study of history can be a wonderful method of instilling patriotism and civic pride into a nation. During the early years of the Cold War, the study of history was viewed as a vital way to instill the notion that the home nation was virtuous and grand, but opposition to a sanitized version of history was growing even as ultra-patriotism became a propaganda tool. Certainly, the sanitization of the history of war did not begin during the Cold War, but during that half century, the sanitized version of history was considered patriotic, and history critical of the homeland was seen by many  as being subversive. Therefore, the shock was profound when footage of war was televised for all to see during the Vietnam War. A generation reared on stories of the noble victories which had defeated tyranny, slavery, totalitarian abuse, and genocide found themselves faced with the horror of…

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Change, Secession, and Liberty

Looking at another time when change was contested.

Pithy History

When a traditional way of life is challenged, turbulent emotions run rampant. Fear and anger replaces reason. As 1860 neared its end, the southern states of the United States of America began to secede from a union which had been forged from the blood and sweat of forefathers, both northern and southern. Assured that the election of Abraham Lincoln would doom the institution of slavery, secession was viewed as the only option in what was believed to be a northern attempt to abolish, not only slavery, but a way of life. The governor of Texas opposed secession even though such a stance invited attack upon both his person and his reputation as defender of the state. Governor Sam Houston argued against secession and when his arguments failed to sway enough voters, he argued for a return to independence rather than a confederation with the other seceding states.

Society, particularly southern…

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Change, Marriage, Hope

Change is often tumultuous and disconcerting. Even long anticipated change can cause anxiety and stress. Underlying even the most anticipated change is the presence of fear – fear of the unknown. For change tends to lead to a ripple effect and to further change, often a less planned or predicted change. However anxiety, uncertainty, and fear are never good reasons to remain tethered to outdated notions of societal norm that directly hinder the liberty of large groups of individuals.

Just as one person’s religious tenants does not devalue the beliefs of another, the value of one couples marriage does not decrease the value of another’s simply because the two unions differ due to physical appearance.

There will always be those who wish to tear down the beliefs of others or to create anarchy, but we must not confuse them with those who simply wish for equality and liberty. Rather than fearing those who wish to tear down the pursuit of spirituality or those desiring to undermine the bonds of marriage, supporters of religious freedom and of the sanctity of marriage should celebrate a change in society which increases support for the institution of marriage. Whether a civil marriage or a marriage performed by a spiritual leader, marriage can now be celebrated, supported, and enjoyed by a greater proportion of the human race than ever before. Marriage can now be a bond which does not discriminate.

It is true that change of this magnitude will not arrive without a ripple effect of further change, and it would be foolish to believe that the ripple effect will necessarily be positive. Yet, fearing and predicting doom is a sure way of encouraging doom. In times of great change, it is much better to set anxiety aside and press forward with hope.

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One Bite at a Time – Adjusting a Classic Saying

For years I have used the old saying,

“How do you eat and elephant – one bite at a time.”

Recently I realized something was missing. In light of the disposable nature of a commercial world and the addiction of instant gratification, I feel the old saying needs to be adjusted.

So how do you eat and elephant?

One bite at a time, day after day, until the task is complete. 

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Myth Rather Than History, Fiction Rather Than Fact

Twenty-five years ago the Berlin Wall, a dramatic symbol of the Cold War, was breached and then torn down. Yet, even after a quarter century, evidence of the Cold War culture permeates daily life. Regardless of policy decisions in Washington or the ongoing debate among scholars as to whether the Cold War ended or an new Cold War is beginning, evidence that many people long for the clear-cut, black-and-white days of the Cold War is easily found; days when media and governmental propaganda directed the public to the larger imperial struggle rather than at the ground level crises the Cold War policies perpetuated.

Crisis and war abound today with coverage of human tragedy and violent conflict filling the media streams, but intervention by Russia is viewed as being bad and intervention by the United States is viewed as necessary, even if some acknowledge it as a ‘necessary evil’.  Cries for humanitarian assistance from those who are suffering, at times, are obscured by political tirades calling for retaliation and the placement of blame.

When World War I, The War to End all Wars, ended and the call for greater international cooperation went forth among the nations, politics stood in the way. When, after another great war, a second US president called for cooperation, the United Nations was formed. Yet, once again political rivalry and imperial competition undermined international cooperation. Under the cloud of Cold War animosity, it became evident that the United Nations could not prevent violence or war. However, despite such animosity, the United Nations became a vehicle for humanitarian cooperation. As the twentieth century wound down, there was hope that human suffering could be effectively addressed internationally even if it could not be eradicated.

The dawn of a new century violently reminded the world that there were many who preferred violence over peace. Sadly, the lessons of the twentieth century were not headed as fully as they should have been.

Isolation from the world was not the answer, nor is it ever an effective answer. No nation can become a hermit in this modern world without causing internal suffering. Military and humanitarian intervention into the crisis ridden regions of the world is a price great nations pay for the economic gains such regions provide. During the nineteenth and twentieth century, the United States expanded its trade and its influence worldwide. Time, and time again, the United States touted its right to intervene, first in the Americas and later throughout the globe. It was not the only nation to do so. The great nations of the twentieth century all benefited from the colonial and neocolonial policies that provided wealth to their citizens. The competition for resources led to war and certainly contributed to the Cold War game of Risk that dominated half a century. This competition also led to some of the turmoil of today, and is being used as justification for many of the atrocious acts of violence being perpetuated by radical power hungry groups. Yet, rather than working in cooperation to combat the human suffering that increases daily, the great nations seem to have splintered, at least if one reads the propaganda filled media accounts which focus on sensationalism rather than facts.

Has the world become more violent and less compassionate than at any other time in human history? Or is there simply greater means for news of the violence to be shared?

These questions cause me to ponder and reflect on the state of humanity and the crisis of mankind, but there is a bigger question that keeps tumbling around my head and disturbs me on a deeper level. Why would someone wish to sensationalize or embellish the already horrific levels of violence occurring in turbulent areas of the world? It is easy to understand those who wish to ignore the horrors man inflicts upon man, to deny the reality that man can be the most uncivilized of the creature of the earth. Those who hide from the ugly of mankind seek isolation and are naïve enough believe that closing their eyes in the face of danger will make the danger disappear. It is easy to understand their reasoning and their motivation, but the motivation of those who wish to make the horror worse than the evidence supports is much more difficult to pinpoint.

Do they seek to demonize the enemy? During World War II, the strategy of demonizing the enemy was key to gaining support for war. When the war was over, the hatred for the enemy was to magically disappear and the demon to become a friend. The same strategy was used throughout the Cold War. This strategy of demonization worked well for governments (even if the magic of friendship failed) and now seems to be adopted by non-governmental organizations (not necessarily a new tendency) with far reaching consequence including creating a huge volume of untrustworthy ‘news reports’ which make evaluation of world events difficult at best.

If demonization of others is the motivation, then what is goal? Certainly the issue of the worldwide violence and growing humanitarian crises is of great concern, but of greater concern is the growing push for more violence – retaliatory violence. When governments are behind the call to war, there is need for level headed evaluation and hopefully international cooperation. When the call to war comes from sources unknown or sources with questionable motives, the need for level headed evaluation and hopefully international cooperation is much greater.

Sadly, such cooperation seems to be of little value in a world which is seeking a hero, a world in which myth has replaced history and fiction replaced fact.

 

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The Sadness of Finding Fault

We all do it at one time or another, finding fault. In the process of evaluation, it is vital that both positive and negative attributes are noted and examined. Yet, even when the evaluation presents a finding of greater negative than positive, it is up to the individual to choose how to process the findings.

When buying an object, say like a car or a sofa, it is clear that the positives must outweigh the negatives. However, since very little in life is perfectly positive, we do well when we focus our thoughts to the positive attributes of the imperfect.

Sadly, it is often the case that when evaluating people, whether it be an individual or a group, we focus on the negative aspects more than the positive, even when the positive attributes outweigh the negative. Worse yet, we seek to blame others for the things that make us sad, angry, or depressed. True, the actions of others can adversely affect our emotional and physical state of being, but in the end we seem to choose to find fault with others more consistently than we try to find happiness in ourselves. When we focus on fault finding and neglect to nurture a spirit of compassion, we become the originator of a greater sadness than that which may have come from the actions of others. For while we can separate ourselves from others, we cannot walk away from our self.

 

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Bias in the Media

Media bias comes in two forms, the suppression of news coverage and the coverage of news in a manner that constitutes propaganda. Propaganda, or what we are being told and sold, makes up half the problem of biased reporting, the other half of the problem lies in the suppression of news.

In an article I was reading this morning, published by POLITICO, there was a great quote by Sharyl Attkisson, “The images that the public sees every day, in many forms, are influenced and manipulated by political, corporate and other special interests through orchestrated and well-financed campaigns.”

I had great hopes, for a brief moment, that for once the media would discuss the presence of and issues caused by corporate or special interest bias in the media. Sadly, rather than branching out past the standard issue of political bias in the media, the article only focused on the well discussed presence of political bias.

Political bias/propaganda is fairly easy for most people to identify, and the educated can maneuver through it with little difficulty. Although frustrating, political bias is not the real danger because it is relatively obvious. It is the corporate and special interest bias/propaganda that hold the real danger for the public, because of the difficulty identifying the motivation. We could say, “It is all about money,” but this oversimplification obscures the difficulties we face in identifying what money is purchasing. Certainly, a corporation would want to increase its earnings and thereby wish to wage a campaign against anything that threatens earning potential, but unlike with pure political bias, the public is more often then not unaware the campaign is being waged. Special interest bias/propaganda is even more difficult to identify, because unlike in a political campaign where the special interest group is identified at the end, news coverage does not include a “paid for by” statement at the end of each news story. Nor will you hear a “this story which we did not cover was suppressed by” statement during the news coverage.

While many can learn to read between the lines of propaganda and glean an understanding of bias, one cannot read between the lines when there are no lines due to suppression.

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