A cautionary tale from fake history: Some years ago, I was playing the computer game Hearts of Iron II. The game is set during World War II. It starts in 1936, and you can play as any nation on Earth at the time. Playing as one of the major powers seemed a bit complicated, so I settled on Republican Spain. I had read For Whom the Bell Tolls during my university days, as I took an entire class on Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. Delightful, I must say. I hope the recent STEM craze does not cause our society to forget the importance of literature. Sometimes I think Creative Writing would have been a better emphasis for me than English: Literary Studies, but most of the Creative Writing classes were up the road in Spokane and my Ford Tempo had died in a cloud of smoke along Highway 395.
I digress. The game began, and I soon found myself fighting fascists on the Iberian Peninsula. I have never been there in real life, but I hear it is quite lovely. Maximus from Gladiator had a farm in Spain, though he never really got to go back and enjoy it. Speaking of my university days, I received extra credit in my History class for watching Gladiator. The professor criticized the errors in the film, but he also said he liked “splatter movies.”
The war continued, and, since this was a computer game, the Republicans were victorious. It is probably just as well the war did not go that way in real life, because then Guillermo del Toro might never have made Pan’s Labyrinth. Guillermo del Toro is actually from Mexico, not Spain, so this would be like an American making a movie about England. Maybe I will do that. I hear making movies is a great deal of work, but maybe there is a position where I can just sit in a chair and shout at people.
In time, war broke out on the rest of the European continent. France fell to Germany, just as it did in real life. However, in this alternate universe, Republic Spain entered the fray and pushed the Germans out of France. I left Vichy France alone. Not really sure what they were doing at that point. It was basically its own country. Someone should make a movie about life in Vichy France. In French, with subtitles, so all the snobs can sit in the cafes and talk with their snobby friends about their love of French cinema.
War continued. The Soviets pressed the Germans from the east. The British, French, and Spanish pressed them from the west. The Italians were doing Axis things in the south, but I do not remember much about it. Victory was approaching.
But then, tragedy struck. Tensions had been growing between the United States and the Soviet Union. And, in this universe, the United States declared war on the Soviet Union and joined the war on the side of Nazi Germany. Soon American troops were landing in Europe. They pushed my brave Spaniards and our allies out of Germany, and soon the Axis powers were victorious.
What is the lesson here? Not sure, exactly, except that international politics can be an unpredictable game. And, speaking of games, I highly recommend Hearts of Iron II.