We are about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of WWI’s armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. We are commemorating the end of the war that ushered in the modern era. Downton Abby chronicled some of the social changes well. Other changes came about because technology had proved superior in the war and the war effort. There was a belief in the value of advancing technology at any cost. And, believe it or not, the world began to seem smaller.
More Americans began to understand that events that occurred away from our shores could influence our lives. There had been trade, but now more Americans had seen both the products made in other countries and the chances to supply things other countries lacked. Photography and the stories from returning doughboys gave us an understanding of the devastation caused by modern warfare even though our part of the world did not experience it.
The war shocked the world into trying to fashion a lasting peace through the institution of The League of Nations, but there was not enough political will for the United States to join it. After WWII, however, the United States, feeling more powerful after our contributions to victory, not only joined but organized it in San Francisco and built the headquarters in New York. The stabilization of the world’s economy because of the United States’ aid to our former foes and as well as allies who had suffered loss was interpreted as a moral triumph. The United States took pride in extracting resources through the international market rather than colonization. We congratulated ourselves that other countries were ending colonial rule and establishing relationships with now sovereign countries.
It is sad for me to see the word globalization become derogatory. For some, it has come to mean that the United States is losing stature in the world. They believe it is the reason why well-paying manufacturing jobs have declined. It is the reason why other countries can become upset with us because of our use of carbon fuels and our insistence on doing things the way we want to.
Actually, our reaching out in the world has been more of a success than a misadventure. It traditionally spread the desire for a democratic government throughout the world. It has meant economic growth has taken hold throughout the world, if unevenly. President Eisenhower established a Sister City program to encourage one on one international friendship. Americans now regularly travel to every corner of the world. We are more aware than ever of how our similarities transcend cultural differences.
As we give thanks to our veterans and celebrate an armistice, let us remember the good that our foreign wars have accomplished by bringing the world closer. Complete cooperation is yet to be achieved, but let’s hope our efforts can be built upon.