“If you’re trying to explain combat to somebody, you’re wasting your time.” — WWII Veteran Don Knapp of Ventura, in our cover feature
Reflecting upon times that were both dark but united, as World War II efforts wore on 75 years ago, young men were getting called away, women were pursuing military work and prisoners in concentration camps were pondering their life and death simultaneously. While surely some Americans had some allegiance to Germany during that time, Americans appeared to be clearly united in the fight against the Nazi Regime. And so the Allied countries won by fighting together against a common enemy, an enabled leader gone mad for power and control and those who supported him.
While there is magnificence in war stories of survival, stories about life before the war began seem to be less relevant. It is important, however, to be able to watch for signs and to be aware of patterns in order to try and steer a doomed ship around in the modern day. For instance, how was life in Germany back then? In The Atlantic’s, World War II: Before the War, the author writes:
The Great Depression had started a decade before, leaving much of the world unemployed and desperate. Nationalism was sweeping through Germany.
If only the internet existed in the 1930s, then perhaps we could have a better understanding of what the conversations were like literally so we could see if our social engagements and opinions are starting to look like pre-World War II, especially given the Great Recession was also a decade ago. We are also already at war with no true way to resolve the conflict unless, maybe, we try a different tactic.
For example, the War on Terror began Sept. 11, 2001, killing around 500,000 in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, including civilians and soldiers, according to Brown University’s Cost of War Project. The War on Drugs began in June 1971, when then-President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse as Public Enemy No. 1. Death toll: 70,200 — for 2017, due to overdose on drugs, “including illicit drugs and prescription opioids — a 2-fold increase in a decade,” according to wonder.cdc.gov.
As the death toll rises every year, we continue to ignore the true casualties and exhaust ourselves fighting on the moral, political battleground with vitriolic opinions and protests over incidents of violence and discrimination that explode like landmines of hatred. Instead of coming together for the sake of humanity to stop the loss of life, we look at each other suspiciously and wonder we simply cannot respect each other and the fighting ensues. Why? Because we do not share the same lives or experiences.
Veteran Calvin Havekost of Oxnard, featured in our main story, said about his time in World War II, “how much I grew up by what I saw and experienced.” Instead of fighting ambiguous threats and perceived enemies categorized by labels, it is of the utmost importance to consider that we have the power to prevent another world war. If we could only come together and figure out what the true common enemy is that the vast majority can agree upon, then maybe we won’t have to share stories of atrocities to our grandchildren but rather ones of unity and hope. There is still a chance.