As George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, and other world leaders mark the 60th anniversary of the Allies' victory over Nazi Germany, it's worth asking how the memory of World War 2 is being reconfigured in contemporary America, what current purposes it is being used for, and how it is being co-opted by successive generations–especially the baby boomers, who explicitly set themselves against "the greatest generation" back during the '60s, memorably described by the late great Spiro Agnew as the "longest panty raid in history."
Here are two Reason-related golden oldies on the topic. First is "Virtual Warriors: Nostalgia, the battlefield, and boomer cinema," a January 2002 essay written by Michael Valdez Moses, which argues
The real (though invisible) antagonist of recent WW II films is not so much the German fascist or the Japanese imperialist as the specter of John Wayne, the larger-than-life self-image of "the greatest generation." Just as the epic deeds of Achilles in Homer's Iliad inflamed the envy and hubris of Alexander the Great, so too have the cinematic images of the Duke's heroic feats fed the jealousy and stoked the historical ambitions of the boomers.
The second is a Suck piece I wrote back in 1998, which also tried to grok the boomers' newfound admiration for their once-reviled elders and new calls for "national sacrifice" from young people:
The sudden reverence for the elderly, as with all things related to the boomers, seems overly self-interested and sanctimonious. Things were fishy enough when the same folks who exclaimed, "Don't trust anyone over 30" in the '60s only a few years later offered up Logan's Run, with its revisionist message that even actor Michael York should be allowed to live into a fourth decade. Can anyone seriously doubt that–given the boomers' penchant for sucking up all the shrimp and steak in the buffet line of life–they are setting up the rest of us not merely to fork over ever more generous portions of our wages to fund their Social Security and Medicare (hey, why shouldn't face lifts and Viagra prescriptions be covered?) but to deny us any last crumb of joy that comes simply from being younger than them?