By Ben Brown
The mere possibility of a war on the horizon is usually met with a sense of foreboding and fear. With escalating conflicts in Iran, fear of war and potential drafting is on the rise. Every generation has had to deal with the terrifying prospect of them or their loved ones being sent to a foreign land to fight unknown enemies. In the past, Americans would find ways to cope with the fear through coming together in their communities, churches, and places of work to steel themselves for the worst.
This generation has found a new, more innovative approach to coping: memes.
The approaches are similar in nature, in that they address the problems at hand and their fear towards the prospect of war, but where they start to differ is their method of addressing these ideas.
To analyze the ways in which different generations react to war, we’ll compare the memes of today to articles written by students for the Jenks High School Newspaper (called the Hi-Jinx, get it, haha) from 1939. Both sources show how the youth of their times reacted to the prospect of an oncoming war.
Both generations have a way of commenting on the idea of oncoming war. They each address the idea with hopes of it reaching as many eyes as possible. The difference comes with the intent and tone of the work.
Memes are much more of a comical commentary on the events at play, bringing people together to laugh at what is happening. The writings of the highschoolers of 1939 are much more serious in tone and have the intent of uniting their school and community among a common ideal so that they can be stronger together.
Crying Jordan vs. October 1939 Hi-Jinx:
Topic: Going off to War
Excerpt from Hi-Jinx, October 17, 1939
“If it becomes necessary for American today to shed its blood and demonstrate its bravery, then we shall do just as we did in 1917-18. Let each boy and girl, man and woman breathe a prayer that he can say and sing ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ and ‘Sweet Land of Liberty.’”
Friends Meme vs. November 1939 Hi-Jinx:
Topic: Impending War
Excerpt from Hi-Jinx, November 2, 1939
“In the country, the children are hidden away in bomb-proof shelters, a small quantity of food is rationed out each mealtime, they receive little or no sunshine or exercise, on critical days of the war, and they have no opportunity whatsoever to study lessons or to take part in any activity or schoolwork. Not so this way in the United States… Can’t we be appreciative of this last, can’t we take every opportunity we have and make something worthwhile from it, can’t we be learning everything we can, for it is the children from this generation (It might be you and I) who will, in a few years, come to govern this nation.”
German Guilt Meme vs. 1939 Hi-Jinx:
Topic: Views on Germany
Excerpt from Hi-Jinx, 1939
“We are urged to hate the Germans for their bestial treatment of racial minorities, when perhaps the majority of the German people are as horrified at such actions as we are. We may well refuse to support the German government by the goods that government exports, we may boycott Japanese goods because of atrocities in China– but we must not hate the German people or those of Japan. Instead we must feel sorry for them, sorry that they did not have the moral stamina to create a democratic form of government under which such crimes against humanity would be impossible.”
Going forward, only time will tell how the events of the rising conflict will turn out, but we can learn from past generations that there will always be conflict and people will always search for ways to cope. Whether it be through memes or thoughtfully composed works, every generation has their own way of facing these conflicts.