Over the past half a century the three major American holidays, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas, have been continuously marginalized; emerging in their place is non-committal nonsense like Halloween, which I enjoy, and various festivities celebrating drunken minorities. One such holiday has, thankfully, just passed. And yet right next to it, hiding in the shadows, is a half-forgotten occasion which, I think, is not only worth remembering, but can bring us together as a country. It is, ladies and gentlemen, VE Day.
If we need to refer to an ethnic minority to confer authenticity on the occasion, refer to Russia. Yes, Russia. I know, Putin is the blue-eyed devil these days (never mind that Gaza treats gays far worse than the Russians) but if there is one thing they do right, it’s that they still remember WW2, or, as they call it, the Great Patriotic War. Victory Day, celebrated on May 9, is a major holiday, commemorated with marches, parades and a general flurry of WW2-related activity.
Now, the holiday is so ubiquitous, it causes a fair share of teenage eye-rolls, which is only a minor problem. A major problem these days is the ongoing deification of Joseph Stalin, the dictator who presided over the victory. This is a recent development: when I was growing up in the 70’s and the 80’s, Stalin’s name was all but dissociated from the war, May 9 was celebrated, but He was an unmentionable.
Moreover, any questioning of the manner in which the Soviet Union conducted the war is near-verbotten. Technically it’s not prohibited, but dissenting voices are marginalized and maligned, the treatment of TV Rain for their discussion of the siege of Leningrad is a case in point. Official insecurity has a reason: Russians should be asking questions pertaining to the heavy toll (24 million) Generalissimus extracted on them at wartime.
That said, the defeat of Nazi Germany is something to be celebrated and something to be remembered. Even if it was achieved under a tyrannical dictator (who happened to be the free world’s wartime ally). Almost every family west of Moscow was touched by the war, nearly every region has its war stories. And while individual soldiers might not have been perfect, the manly valor of those who gave so much to defeat Nazism is to be recognized.
I wish VE Day was a bigger deal stateside. It’s not just that the greatest generation has earned their major national holiday, but in the general atmosphere of moral relativism it’s more important than ever to be able to talk about good and evil, and Nazism personifies ultimate evil.
Equally important in the age of Obama, as we watch our country being torn apart by race-bating, is to remember the time when our nation was united. Was the United States a perfect nation in the 1940’s? No. Jim Crow was still the law of the land in the South, for instance. And yet, as late Samuel Huntington noted, WW2 was the point when people from different ethnic backgrounds, many first and second generation Americans, came together and defeated the enemy. As we are so desperately searching for meaning, why not find it in a place where we can be brought together as a nation?
So please, enough with commemoration of minor victories of a foreign people. We have our own victory over evil to remember. Grab a bottle of vodka if you must.