Updated: Oct 1, 2020
In September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, thus starting World War II. In response to this action Britain and France declared war on Germany. This was followed by a period of limited military action until the German invasion of Norway and Denmark in April 1940. This six-month time of inaction was later referred to by the Germans as Sitzkreig, and by the British as the Phoney War.
I was reminded of this inglorious time in our history when I read a column in the September 18th 2020 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The column, written by Leonard Pitts, is entitled, “We give a damn too late”. Pitts compares our current situation with what our grandparents faced in World War II. He starts by saying,
Many observers, myself included, have invoked the stoic sacrifices of the World War II generation as sharp contrast to the whiny petulance so prominent in COVID-era America. Our grandparents went without sugar, gasoline and meat for four years, we say, whereas these crybabies are blubbering because they are asked to mask.
He notes that there was selfishness in World War II. But he goes on to say,
The more telling difference is that nobody in that era had to be convinced the war was real. So the issue is not simply degrees of selfishness, but of ignorance, the willingness to deny — to actively reject — empirical fact.
Pitts’ insights illustrate this point. We need to recognize that we are at war, and that COVID-19 and climate change are real — they are not “fake news” or “a matter of opinion”. These are not phoney wars; they are not sitzkrieg.
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