25 July 2009

Britain's Last WWII Soldier Passes

MSNBC.com: Harry Patch, Britain’s last WWI soldier, dies

This article brings something up that I've been thinking about a lot recently: the differences between our generation and the ones before us. Maybe it was the ironically intelligent observation I read on that awful textsfromlastnight.com site that said "Our generation is good at dating, we're good at hooking up" or the fact that I left Fight Club playing in my bedroom on repeat for a few hours too long, but it's been on my mind. The generations before us, that of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, harvested a crop of people that were all individually shaped by some huge tragedy or hardship. It seems they are all much tougher, have much stronger convictions, and were much more aware of themselves at a much younger age. It may be cheesy, but a line from the aforementioned Fight Club marathon always sticks out to me when I hear it, no matter how distracted I am with laundry folding: "We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives." Great tragedy toughens your skin, it prioritizes your life, and reaffirms the things you take for granted. There are thousands of U.S. soldiers, some even younger than me, overseas right now who have all realized what all of their granddads that fought in Vietnam and WWII were talking about. So what about the rest of us? Will the 9-11/bin Laden/Iraqi conflict shape us? Will we be able to relate to our grandfathers? Or are we, as a society, now too displaced from it or anything like it for it to affect us personally? No one alive today saw the Civil War or the Revolutionary War. None of us saw it, or had family members die in it, or lost a limb or a home or a brother to it. We all know the textbook facts, but unless you were able to speak to someone who was there, and see its effects in their face, it's nearly impossible to grasp how important it was. I'd like to think that this is an observation on the way humans translate hardship, rather than a reflection of my own methods: that the human aspect is what drives a point home. The survivors of World War II are nearly all dead now. Imagine, the babies being born right now will think of these milestones in our grandparents lives the way we, today, think of the Civil War; something distant and displaced into text books.

I have a feeling I'll be writing more about this general topic in the near future.

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