Well, it appears that my idea of having some series of events at Mount Mercy University to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I may be gaining traction. I had an informal meeting with a small group over lunch here Thursday, and there is great enthusiasm for the Great War to be remembered.
Well, that sounds wrong. World War I was the great tragedy of the early 20th century that, to a large extent, in my opinion, created the modern world. The optimistic spirit of the 19th century was stripped away, the use of anything dashing or glorious in modern, industrial warfare—like a cavalry charge, which I’m sure was much more romantic in theory than in bloody reality anyway—became nothing but a memory and a farce.
Humans conquered the air and used it to rain bombs down on fellow humans. A great flu pandemic—which we in the U.S. have the gall to call the “Spanish flu,” when this virulent strain of flu actually originated in the United States—swept the globe directly as a result of this horrible, four-year bloodbath.
And, as my friend English Professor Jim Grove has pointed out, the great tragedy of The Great War is that it was a mere foreshadowing, only a taste of the horrors to be unleashed in the next generation. It was, in large measure, just Chapter 1 of World War II.
So much of what we deal with today, in geopolitical terms, has so much to do with World War I and the century that was not the century of peace—the war turned out not to be the war that ended war—but the century of pieces. Messed up Middle East? World War I. Rise of new powers in Asia? World War I. A totally new face for Africa—well, more of that happened in the wake of World War II, but even though the world didn’t know it at the time, World War I was the end of European world dominance and colonization. And, after all, it’s true that whatever happened in the wake of World War II happened because of World War I since World War II is a result of World War I.
Heck, the rise and fall of Communism—you guessed it, World War I. Modern media—the rise of broadcasting, the creation of public relations, a modern understanding of marketing. WWI.
And social changes. Women’s rights. Civil rights for minorities. All these strands of the modern world—well, it’s would be untrue to say they started due to World War I, because World War I was the continuation of previous events and it’s not like history began or the modern world sprang forth form the womb in 1914. But, certainly World War I was a huge event, and the point of having remembrance events at Mount Mercy at the launch of school in the fall is not just to recall it, but to think of the reverberations of it that still echo today.
Anyway, I’m pretty excited that the event seems to be coming together. So, the real point of this blog post is to solicit ideas for a name—what shall we call this? When I proposed a WWI series last fall for the first time, I think I suggested something like “Echoes of ‘The Guns of August.’” That’s pretty catchy, but is too much a repeat of a famous book title.
I want a name that’s catchy, that captures a spirit of both remembrance and contemporary reflection. I hope some of you reading this may have some ideas. A few of mine:
- Living in the Great War World: Mount Mercy reflects on WWI.
- The First World War and Today: What ‘The Cause’ Caused.
- WWI and the Birth of Today: Mount Mercy Remembers.
- A Century of Glory and Shame: Mount Mercy Reflects on How WWI Made Today
Somehow, I’m stuck on colons—I have subtitle disease. Some of these are OK, but none quite sings to me. The event will probably include 3- to 4-week displays, some faculty presentations, maybe a film series and some sort of music/reading/multimedia performance. I’m sure we’ll want to invite the community to participate.
So, blog pals, chime in. If you were going to plan a commemorative series for World War I, what would you call it? Or, do you like any of my ideas, but could you shorten/improve them?
Another version, by the group Dropkick Murphys, of the song that helped start it all: