history


Layers upon layers here today, as my random readings of blog archives brings up a post from EoTAW brought up a 2007 article by Chuck Klosterman, “Things We Think We Know,” which basically argues that Europeans vastly overestimate how much the average American actually cares about cowboy culture:

And it slowly dawned on me that the creators of “I Like America” had made one critical error: While they had not necessarily misunderstood the historical relationship between Americans and cowboy iconography, they totally misinterpreted its magnitude. With the possible exception of Jon Bon Jovi, I can’t think of any modern American who gives a shit about cowboys, even metaphorically. Dramatic op-ed writers are wont to criticize warhawk politicians by comparing them to John Wayne, but no one really believes thatHondoaffects policy; it’s just a shorthand way to describe something we already understand. But European intellectuals use cowboy culture to understand American sociology, and that’s a specious relationship (even during moments when it almost makes sense). As it turns out, Germans care about cowboys way more than we do.

EoTAW was highly critical of this argument, and the post reminded me that I, too, had taken issue with this article back in the day. I made some stupid comment on the blog, but then at home I managed to find where I had actually written down my thoughts on the piece, which are much smarter. I present them here for your enjoyment (updated, of course, because it is no longer 2007 and a lot has changed):

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Sorry, again, for the lack of posts. I’ve been gone most of the month. So here, have a video:

At eleven a.m. on November 11, 1918, an armistice went into effect. Fighting on the western front of World War I officially ceased. In commemoration of this, the first Armistice Day was celebrated on November 11, 1919.

Armistice Day is one of those rare civic holidays that’s celebrated in many countries, in some form or another. The French and Belgians call it Armistice Day; the Poles call it Polish Independence Day; the Italians celebrate it on November 4. The UK and Commonwealth countries call it Remembrance Day and have expanded it to include all veterans, although special emphasis is still placed on WWI.

In the United States, November 11 was originally called Armistice Day. It became Veteran’s Day in 1954, expanded to include all American veterans, and from 1971 to 1977 it was actually celebrated in October. I would argue (although I could be wrong) that most Americans no longer associate the day with World War I, and the fact that we now call it Veteran’s Day and place only incidental emphasis on the day’s connection to World War I reveals the great discrepancies between how the U.S. and Europe experienced and remember that war.

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