On VE Day and its meaning in 2020

(spoilers: let’s move on)

What was “Victory in Europe”? – it was a defining victory for peace and freedom.

Amazon’s infallible algorithm is suggesting I might want to buy Union Flag bunting, or a “stick the cigar on the Churchill” game, stuff I assume is in high demand ahead of the 75th anniversary of VE Day this coming Friday.

Let’s get sensible.

Yes, preserving freedom in Europe in the war in the 1940s was hugely important (oh, and sorry fellow Brits, did you know that the resulting alliances helped to create an enduring political peace and the European Union, that we just WITHDREW FROM, leading to avoidable PPE shortages in 2020? good job)

Let us also be clear that – hopefully – the majority in my generation will never be conscripted, or asked to throw themselves into a murderous and fatal conflict on foreign soil, far from our loved ones. We owe the UTMOST respect to those who defended us and our families, and the belief in freedom, in the middle of the 20th century.

What is the purpose of national flag waving and Churchill worship, 75 years on? In 1945, or 1930, were the British people out on the streets celebrating victory in the Nakupu Expedition of 1871? Defeating the Maori in the 1860s? Probably not. (oh, did you know those wars happened? must have been before your time… and possibly not as well-publicised?)

I’m an historian, and I am a very proud British citizen; but let’s not spend the next 150 years celebrating a war victory just as we have a World Cup in 1966 (that I wasn’t born for, either). This is pointless.

Unlike Colonel (nee Captain) Tom, a centenarian who actually saw the horrors of war in the early 20th century, we’re fortunate to have enjoyed PEACE & collaboration through the EU. If things “dont go back to normal” after the current pandemic, I would point out that since the late 1990s, regardless of your political preferences, we’ve had it , and possibly too much so. Also, I have many friends from across our continent who would have been viewed with distrust in the period 1945–1970 (and certainly after that as well, given the vote to leave the EU); we are fools to believe we are better than our friends and neighbours. We are equals, and we are friends, and we can always learn from one another.

I’m happy to have a day off work on VE Day, on Friday (although, I would normally have had a day off on the preceding Monday, instead).

I’m sure the Queen and PM will have Words To Say, but 1945 is 75 YEARS AGO. A literal lifetime for the vast majority of people!

Let’s move on, work together, beat COVID-19, unite politically & socially, and NOT sell stupid & pointless street party nationalist tat.

(also, setting off fireworks on Thursday nights when young kids are being set down to sleep is also just ridiculous, and going way past the respectful “clap for carers” idea, so stop pushing the boundaries; where did you even go to get the fireworks? Stay home and safe!)

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