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View Diary: My Grandfather Fought in WWII . . . on the Other Side (175 comments)

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  •  We all have "black sheep"... (4+ / 0-)

    Like you my antecedents represent a wide range, including those I would be diametrically opposed to.

    I'm an Irishman (no really, not one of those American-Irish, but born and bred there) and over the past few years me ole fella has been doing genealogy. Now I knew we had some British Army members in the 20th century (including one M16 member) but we didn't really speak about those, we tended to focus more on the ones who fought in the Easter Rising of 1916 and the War of Independence of 1920-22 and in hushed whispers of IRA members in the campaigns of the 40s and 50s. Turns out that we have antecedents going back to the Norman invaders of the 12th century, the Cromwellian plantations of the 1660s and every other hue of collaborator and traitor (at least by Republican standards) in between.

    History is a quare ole thing indeed and each of us has all sorts in our recent and distant past. I find that such knowledge increases my empathy and patience with viewpoints and those I would tend to oppose and has eventually brought me to a humble place where I subscribe to the notion that none of us is right and none of us can judge the validity of another's position. I have reasoned it thusly: the information available in the universe is infinite, and we are finite creatures. With a mortal and therefore finite life there is a limited amount of time to imbibe knowledge, and limited mechanisms of reading and listening, we can only known an infinitesimal percentage of total knowledge, with an incomplete dataset how can you possibly put yourself in a position to know if you are right and another wrong?

    And incidentally my Grandfather was in the Irish Army during WW2 and while many of his comrades went AWOL to join the Brits he always told them he'd go with them if they were going to fight on the other side. You have to remember it had only been 17 years since we had kicked the Brits out of our country and with the wartime censorship in Ireland no one had any idea what was going on in Nazi Germany so there were many who were delighted to see the Brits get the stuffing knocked out of them. An amusing film that touches on this is The Brylcream Boys starring Gabriel Byrne.

    Humanity and people are complex and each of us tries to do the best we can and good as we see it - even those who we consider evil be it Hitler, Bush or Mother Theresa, we are shaped by the information we have chosen to imbibe in our short lives and the experiences that have been thrust upon us. Like beauty, evil is in the eye of the beholder.

    •  Complications of WWII (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dianna

      And incidentally my Grandfather was in the Irish Army during WW2 and while many of his comrades went AWOL to join the Brits he always told them he'd go with them if they were going to fight on the other side.

      Ireland is the one place I can think of in Europe where this sort of thing was understandable even if was not excusable; in Asia it was much more complicated, though. Several liberation struggles there (especially Burma and Indonesia) were led by people who had at some point collaborated with the Japanese, although they later turned on them. Even India had some nationalists (e.g. Bose) who went that route.

      Of course in other cases (China, Vietnam, Korea) the whole thing was as straightforward as it was in Europe.

    •  Isn't the genealogy interesting? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassandra Waites

      I've been digging into mine for several years.  I think it makes you a lot more aware of history, what peoples' lives were like years ago, what kind of motives they had for leaving everything they knew and sailing across the ocean to a strange country.  Probably the one thing I would most like to discover, and never will, is why they did that, why did they come to America?  And what did they leave behind?

      •  I've got so many ancestors from so many places, (0+ / 0-)

        and past a certain point you honestly can't trace back further unless you hit royals and even then the trails stop at around 1000ad (or so I've heard), that I just have to admit that sooner or later everyone's probably a cousin of mine at some level.

        I've got some German blood, but my ancestors on that side entered the United States back when they were still just colonies. I'd like to learn more about that slice of my heritage, but nearly all of anything I was ever taught about Germany in school was about one or the other of the World Wars, or the space in between, and most of the rest involved some guy nailing complaints to a church.

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