WWII and I Don’t Know Anything

I passed by the group pictured below on Saturday, on my way to the America’s Cup race. I asked someone what they had gathered for, it was very Russian-centric and clearly had something to do with WWII, but I couldn’t understand her answer. I was also terrified that I would reveal some gross lack of knowledge. (I googled it when I got home and decided it must have had to do with VE Day and Germany’s surrender.)

Whenever someone posts a video on Facebook where they ask people something very obvious, like the one I just watched asking people about WWII coincidentally, I feel pity for the people who don’t know anything. One person had never heard of WWII, another had never heard of Hitler, another couldn’t name the countries we were fighting against.

First, I panic when I’m put on the spot about what I know. My mind goes blank. Second, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I once knew. Third, I can’t think of a third. Oh. Third, I’m not very educated to begin with, except in areas that coincide with my various obsessions.

My big fear is someone is going to shove a camera in my face and ask me to name a supreme court justice and the only names I will be able to come up with, if any, will be the conservative judges.

So I sympathize with the people being questioned in the video, and not the know-it-alls interviewing them. Except, I don’t like that the people being interviewed don’t seem to care. I think people should be educated and informed, and if I learned for the first time that there was something called World War II that was bigger and deadlier than any other war and involved nuclear bombs being dropped, genocide, and fucking so on, I’d be shocked to the core. I wouldn’t be standing there going, “Nope, never heard of it, hahaha.” Except maybe that was just a defensive response.


Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

7 thoughts on “WWII and I Don’t Know Anything

  1. I graduated from high school long after the Vietnam War was over and didn’t learn we had lost the war. And my parents’ encyclopedia set was from 1968 so that was no help!
    Anyway, after college I watched the PBS series on Vietnam (by Stanley Karnow?) and that finally filled in some basic knowledge. Anyone who doesn’t know about WWII should look into PBS movies; pretty painless way to learn about the subject!
    But yes, it’s a bit surprising to find what people do and don’t know about.

  2. I find it astounding that a person had not heard of a world war. There is also Godwin’s Law, which you would think would make it likely that people who use the internet would at least have heard of Hitler.
    The other thing I notice, even among university students, is a lack of curiosity. If someone says something you’ve never heard about, why wouldn’t you look it up (like you did)? I just don’t know if this is new or same old. But it is so easy to look things up these days, it bothers me that people aren’t doing it. In the olden days with card catalogues and paper encyclopedias, it was a lot more effort to look stuff up.

  3. I didn’t mean to imply that YOU were dumb-as you most certainly are NOT !! Sincere apologies.

  4. I know you weren’t implying that! I’m just saying I am. Seriously. The amount of holes in my general knowledge is embarrassing.

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