War as Entertainment
Everyone likes a good war. We write books about it. We make movies about it. When I was a kid, we played “Army” and pretended to shoot each other with toy guns. We threw play hand grenades at each other. Those who were “shot” fell to the ground for a few seconds before getting up and starting another battle. I even had a toy bazooka for the big jobs that shot actual rubber bombs.
We were given G.I. Joes for Christmas, or plastic Army men to arrange in make-believe battles. We played board games like “Combat” and “Battleship.” Local heroes were included in prominent floats during the 4th of July parade, while the VFW had its own float and the Boy Scouts marched close behind. 4th of July fireworks provided the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, and that kind of thing.
War is kind of fun, I mean if you aren’t actually in one.
War Isn’t As Entertaining as in the Past
The king of malaprops Yogi Berra once said “the past ain’t what it used to be.” He wasn’t talking about our collective attention span regarding war, but he may as well have been. We used to have a much longer attention span for war. It kept our interest for a much longer period of time. During WWII, news of the war was the mainstay of talk in every diner and filled the front page of every newspaper. Wives of servicemen waited anxiously for news of their loved ones. There were scrap drives for metal and rubber to help the war effort. People proudly bought war bonds to help fund the war. The population was all-in every day. They called it “total war.”
During the Vietnam War, the attention span of the public toward war remained strong. With the nightly news footage of events in Vietnam, the body count, and the growing protests at home, it was hard not to be interested. The merits of the war were debated in homes, bars, and workplaces throughout the land. It was the theme of much of the music produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s. If you lived in the United States, you were keenly aware there was a war going on.