This week marks the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the start of World War I*. This recent op-ed piece in the L. A. Times (which provided the title for this post) touches on something that I've been thinking about.
The American Civil War and World War II loom much larger in the narrative of the United States than World War I. The image of a Nazi or Confederate flag still rouses strong feelings in many people but I doubt many still get worked up over the flag of Imperial Germany. The Civil War and World War II are cast as wars against evil. It makes it easier to accept the not so nice things we (the United States) did during those conflicts since they were done for the greater good.
World War I (and the U.S. entry into it) was a more complicated narrative that requires more thought to understand. How did an assassination in the Balkans lead in a matter of weeks to the major nations of Europe being at war? How was the U.S. was against entering the war until it was for it**?
As the linked piece says:
Politicians, pundits and the authors of the Common Core standards insist that schools prepare kids "to compete in the global economy" and attain "21st century skills." In frenzies of test preparation, current events and a lot of history get lost.
Considering how much the events and outcome of World War I still affect the world today I hope it's not one of the things lost.
*It's also the 64th anniversary of North Korea invading South Korea and kicking off the Korean
Police Action War, another forgotten conflict for many in the U.S.
**Bonus points for naming the one member of Congress who voted against the U.S. entry into both World War I and World War II (i.e. voted against both declarations of war).