D-Day in Perspective

Dear Group,

Last week on June 6 the U.S. and Europe marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing. It was a time to pause for reflection over a piece of our history that is rapidly fading from living memory, fading as the last veterans of World War II take their final leave. As our bloated, draft-dodging, White House occupant incongruously paraded in Normandy with Western European leaders I tried to put things in perspective. World War II was an immense chapter in world history, a war fought against doctrines of nationalism and cultural and racial superiority we find abhorrent…even as they rise again in our own nation and our own region.

As our cultural memory of World War II fades we recall family stories of loss, soldiers our parents knew who lie in European cemeteries, other men who could only voice the horror of their war experience on rare occasions when their tongues were released by alcohol, and others we’ve known with family histories tied to the holocaust. Through these stories we still carry a link to the scars of that war, a link growing more tenuous with each passing year.

We know these personal histories and we remember cultural accounts of collective effort, Rosie the Riveter, victory gardens, war bonds, gasoline rationing. The blood, treasure, and effort, the shattered lives…our investment as a nation in World War II all seems immense…and yet…and yet, how does it compare to the effects on countries on whose territory the war was actually fought? Casualty data tell a story few Americans grasp.

We humans tend to make up our minds based on emotion, emotions based on stories, on recollections of our latest encounter, not on numbers, even less on dry statistical analysis. But what if we were provided a way of visualizing numbers, of seeing numbers as part of the story?

In my digital ramblings I recently stumbled upon a video available on youtube entitled The Fallen of World War II. I urge you to click and watch. The young man who put it together, Neil Halloran, describes it as “an animated data-driven documentary about war and peace,” This 18 minute video offers me hope that more people might perceive reality as more than personal emotion.

I fear many now pretending to lead us, especially the current White House occupant and Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R, Eastern WA) have little or none of the perspective these numbers reveal as they lead us down the road to the next conflict. Share widely.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Neil Halloran has a Twitter presence and a website, but no Facebook or wikipedia entry I can find. He raises funds for his efforts through the web with a presence on Patreon, something else I’d never heard of. As a believer in data and education I want to support his effort and believe the wider circulation of his work is important. I am encouraged that The Fallen has  more than 6 million views on youtube alone. I am further heartened by recognition that people younger than I are probably better acquainted with Halloran’s work than I am account of their involvement with electronic media like Twitter, media with which I am only marginally familiar.