Thursday, September 27, 2012

The End of a Common Culture?

Brad DeLong usually blogs about economics and economic history, bashing Republican economists with verve and vigor.  But he also blogs WWII, one of which triggers this:

Context: 70 years ago today, the Marines on Guadalcanal were engaged with the Japanese forces.  Due to poor communication, a group of Marines gets cut off.  Meanwhile the destroyer Monssen is patrolling offshore.

"It was then that Smoot noticed a lone figure on another hill waving signal flags. His signal read: SEND BOAT ASHORE. The captain was wary of Japanese trickery. The figure was dressed in what he called “army drill,” but from this distance the man could belong to either side. “We didn’t know who it was and I wasn’t going to take any chances.” Smoot asked a signalman if there were a way to verify his identity. The signalman had an idea, and flagged a question to their mysterious correspondent: WHO WON THE WORLD SERIES IN 1941? The answer—YANKEES IN FIVE—decided the issue.
The deck force lowered a whaleboat over the side, and it motored in to the beach. When it returned, it was carrying the commander of the 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines, his aide, and two other marines. Coming aboard, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, age forty-four, saluted Smoot. “I doggone near lost my life getting down to the beach. I’ve got a whole group of my men up there in the hills. I’ve got to get them out of trouble.”
 My title? In 1942 it was safe to assume almost everyone in the US military knew who had won the World Series in the prior year.  The nation shared a common culture, at least in that regard.  My feeling is such an assumption is not safe today, not about the World Series, not about the Super Bowl, not about nothing.

[Updated: Ezra Klein this morning admitted he didn't know who won last year's World Series.]

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