Opinion: VE Day Is More Than Just A Celebration
This Friday marks 75 years since the Allied armies defeated the scourge of Nazism. Patriotic bunting will decorate the streets, politicians will speak proudly on the telly and socially distanced street parties will commemorate the anniversary of this joyous occasion. And rightly so! VE Day is a celebration, but it’s also much more than that.
This was not just a defeat of an invading enemy. This was the defeat of an ideology. Even with the Nazis losing, the repercussions of their reign of tyranny was amongst the bloodiest in history. Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and anyone they didn’t approve of were killed once their use was served.
Therefore, we must celebrate the defeat of the most vile ideology the world has ever seen and be forever thankful that our brave troops prevented Europe and much of the world becoming a living dystopia. Yet it is also more than that. I believe there are two key lessons that can learn from this: a warning and a message of hope.
After the defeat of Nazism, we said never again. Hitler’s time in power saw the end of democracy and civil liberties, an era of war and destitution throughout much of the world and a holocaust that claimed up to eleven million people. The phrases “never again” and “we must learn from history” are said so often that they are now borderline clichés.
Yet, in truth, neither stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. Genocides in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and the Sudan prove that we have not moved beyond this. Even today, the people of Kashmir live in fear for their lives, the Rohingya people face genocide and the country of Yemen has become near unliveable. When celebrating VE Day, we must not see it as the anniversary of everything returning to normal but a warning that we must give everything we have to ensure peace and justice prevail.
On a more positive note, our experience of WWII and the home front can give us hope. “A People’s War” or “Blitz Spirit” maybe oversimplifications but there is certainly truth in it. During WWII people were told to “grow your own” and accept evacuees while today there are so many people volunteering to help the vulnerable in the community that most have to be turned away. Much like today with lockdown, people during the Blitz pulled together and followed the rules. Neil Ferguson may be breaking the rules and it’s well documented that people robbed houses during the Blitz but these are just outliers.
But why does that give us hope? For one, it shows us that we can pull together as a nation. What’s more, it was Britain’s collectivism during the war that led to us electing Britain’s most radical government, nationalising large swathes of British economy, creating the NHS and creating a fair and just society. After the tragedy of WWII, the country realised that if they could stand tall at their lowest point, they could build a country fit for heroes. There is no good reason why that should not apply today.
By Thomas Diamond
Hertford & Stortford CLP