WWII Rhetoric

Jun 5

The Rhetoric of Patriotic Sacrifice

Paradoxically, the love story of Casablanca reaches its highest pitch when Rick and Ilsa forswear one another. For American audiences looking warily forward to years of war (D-Day lay more than 18 months in the future), their sacrifice stood as object lesson: to defeat a common enemy, individuals would have to set aside personal goals and drives for the greater good of the community

Eighty years later, we find ourselves in a similar situation, confronting a common enemy. And fighting it requires personal sacrifice: wearing masks in public, avoiding crowds, eating at home, losing jobs, missing mortgage payments. Does the patriotism of the WWII era provide a template for reshaping the ethic of present-day America?

Jake Nevins raises this possibility in a New York Times Magazine article published a few months back. In “The Imperative of Personal Sacrifice, Today and During World War II,” Nevins interviews historian Robert Citino about the demands placed on American civilians during the war, detailing how rationing and other regulations reshaped society. In preparation for our third Interdisciplinary Forum, read Nevins’ piece and think back on the movie, then pose a question you’d like faculty to address during our conversation.

Click to join via Zoom from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM on Fri, Jun 5.

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