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Corona Diaries: not a day for jollity

May 8, 2020

If I sound less than enthusiastic about today’s VE Day celebrations, it’s perhaps because so many of the generation that experienced the end of the Second World War are currently languishing in care homes, or are dropping like flies because we have failed to look out for them.

I know nobody who is more interested in that conflict than I am. I have read many books and spoken to many people on the subject. But it’s not my experience and I find it hard to share in the outbreak of nostalgia.

I don’t want to stop people celebrating. After all, we have little enough to cheer about at the moment

But to an extent I share the perspective of a friend, Andrew Morton, who posted this on Facebook:

For me, this VE Day is going into Room 101. WW2 was a very nasty scrap and there are many lessons to be learnt for those who care to get a proper historical perspective. The problem is that it has all become massively mythologised – by the Russians, Germans. French, Americans, Polish but most of all, and probably worst of all, by the British, and the British establishment at that. Or should I say “Great British”. My dad played an active part, and many of my older relatives were involved, fought and died, in both wars. However, I’m sure their version was not the Boris Johnson, Mark Francois, flag-waving Vera Lynn fest that is being foisted on us all. It is a sad fact about the British that, apart from the 66 World Cup, they have so little to celebrate that they have to delve 75 years into a past that 90% of them never experienced to feel good about themselves. Anyway, count me out.

Like Andrew, I have relatives who fought and died in both wars. Both my parent were in uniform. I’ve posted several extracts of my grandfather’s diary from the Western Front in the First World War. We should remember those who died and be happy for those who survived.

I don’t take such a negative view of my country and its post-war achievements as my friend. We should reflect, though, that many of our achievements have been those of individuals – scientists, engineers, musicians and writers – rather than the result of what you could call national effort.

Whatever we have become over the past seventy-five years, today should not be a day for flag-waving, socially-distant tea parties and old songs.

It should be one of solemn commemoration. By all means we should wheel out the Spitfires, gather by the war memorials and observe the one-minute silence.

But this is no time for jollity.

From → Books, History, Social, UK

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