The little nation that defeated the Soviets

Simo_hayha_honorary_rifle

Simo Häyhä, the “White Death”

A nation is defined by its history and its people’s common experiences.  That is especially true of nations whose citizens, for the most part, share a specific ethnic identity.  In Finland, where I spent some time recently, history is a living force.

For some 500 years, Finland was part of Sweden, a region in the East where members of the Finnish tribe dwelt.  Finland was Swedish during the 17th century when that kingdom was a world power, as the Swedish kings saved Lutheranism during the Thirty Years’ War and dominated much of Northern Europe.  To this day, Finland has a Swedish-speaking minority.

But then, in 1809, Sweden lost a war with Russia.  Finland, on Russia’s border, was ceded to the Czar, who made it an autonomous Grand Duchy under his authority.  So Finland went into its Russian phase, though it resisted assimilation.

When the Communist Revolution broke out, Finland saw its chance.  It declared independence and established itself as a free republic.  This happened in 1917, so that this year Finland is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The Communists had their own problems in 1917 so basically let Finland go.  Some Finns, however, were on the Bolshevik side, so the new nation fought a bloody civil war, with the “Whites” defeating the “Reds.”

But in 1939, Stalin resolved to take Finland back.  Soviet troops poured over the Finnish border.  In this conflict, known as the “Winter War,” the Soviets outnumbered the Finns three to one, with 30 times more airplanes and 100 times more tanks.

I was told that the president of Finland then was a devout Christian.  He called upon all Finns to pray.  And they did. [Read more…]

From “the most humiliating year in our history” to victory

256px-USS_California_sinking-Pearl_HarborToday is the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.   The Daily Oklahoman has a fascinating and moving feature looking not only at the coverage of that event but of its anniversary through the war years and beyond.

We often forget that the first year of the war we were losing.  The editorial  for December 7, 1942, called it “the bitterest and most humiliating year in our history.”  The next year’s paper was sober but more upbeat.  Then we see optimism.  In 1945 we see the exuberance–and relief–of victory, along with a memorial to those who died achieving it.

The feature gives us a picture of what a unified nation looks like and something of what it felt like to be caught up in a collective cause that was a matter of life and death, not only for individuals, friends, and loved ones–nearly every family had someone fighting–but for the country itself.  It must have been terrible to go through, but also good.

And we can’t help but wonder if America would be capable of that today.

Read a sampling from the newspaper accounts after the jump. [Read more…]

The politics of refusing power

Usually, politics is a competition between individuals and factions each of which wants to be, as we say, “in power.”  In Japan, though, there is a political struggle between a faction that wants to put a man in power and that man who does not want the power.

As we blogged about, the party of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has won enough seats in parliament to accomplish his goal of revising the Japanese Constitution, which was primarily the work of Gen. Douglas MacArthur after World War II in an effort to ensure that Japan would become a peaceful Democratic nation.  Abe wants to bring back elements of pre-war Japan.  He and his party have connections to a group that wants to bring back both Japanese militarism and Emperor worship.

But now the Emperor has given an unexpected speech in which he rebuked those efforts, including the desire to give him more power and to treat him as a god.  Ironically, those who think the Emperor is a god are opposing him!

[Read more…]

Japan flirts with World War II ideology again

Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party has just won a 2/3 majority in both of its houses of legislature, enabling it to amend its Constitution, which had been imposed by the United States after World War II.  The party wants to change the Constitution because it enshrines “the Western European theory of natural human rights,” including the freedom of speech.

Many in the party, including the Prime Minister, belong to a group that believes Japan was in the right during World War II.  These lawmakers want to rebuild Japan’s military capacity and to return to worship of the Emperor. [Read more…]

C.S. Lewis, secret agent?

The discovery of a recording of a lecture by C. S. Lewis has connected him to the British Secret Service during World War II. [Read more…]

World War II ended 70 years ago yesterday

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.  Not many of those who fought in that bloody epic conflict are still around.  We should salute those who are.

Do you think a world war on that scale could happen again?  Would we be capable of the same sacrifices, both on the battlefields and on the homefront?

A tribute to the anniversary after the jump. [Read more…]