I highly recommend this read, The Good War is a graphic essay by Mike Dawson and Chris Hayes that posits that the nostalgia for World War II seen during the 1990s (Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation) led to the US wrongly associating 9/11 with Pearl Harbor and the “War on Terror” with WWII.
The graphic essay is based on The Good War on Terror, an earlier work by Hayes written in 2006.
On September 11, 2001, George W. Bush wrote the following impression in his diary: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.” He wasn’t alone in this assessment. In the days after the attacks, editorialists, pundits and citizens reached with impressive unanimity for this single historical precedent. The Sept. 12 New York Times alone contained 13 articles mentioning Pearl Harbor.
Five years after 9/11 we are still living with the legacy of this hastily drawn analogy. Whatever the natural similarities between December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001, the association of the two has led us to convert – first in rhetoric, later in fact – a battle against a small band of clever, murderous fundamentalists into a worldwide war of epic scale.
I think Hayes hits the nail on the head when he supposes the Vietnam War might have been a better model for how Americans should have reacted to 9/11. It’s a great read on how nostalgia, something we see rearing it’s head more and more as the baby boomer generation ages, can lead to truly disastrous consequences.
While we’re on the topic, I would also highly recommend listening to Hidden Brain’s episode on nostalgia titled ‘The Good Old Days.’ Nostalgic thinking isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, it can have dire consequences in the present and future.
The scientist who coined the term “nostalgia” in 1688 thought of this emotion as a neurological illness caused by demons.