Merriam-Webster officially defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” But these days, most of us think of memes as those viral posts online that convey a message using a photo with text. They range from funny to serious to offensive, and everything in between. Sometimes they include a call to action, and other times they focus on creating an emotion.
We naturally gravitate towards story-telling. It’s part of our human nature that began thousands of years ago, well before the written word. We want to pass down our history and cultures, and we do this by telling stories because they resonate with us. Stories tap into our emotions. They make us feel. They move us to action. When we talk about the centennial of World War I, we have to make it personal for the American public, or else we run the risk of forgetting this war.
I recently asked some friends—a group of intelligent, successful individuals—what they knew about World War I. The responses I received included, “Ummm…..it was in the 1910s?” or “Started in Europe when the archduke was killed?” Beyond this, it’s mostly blank stares and shoulder shrugs. People who consider themselves history geeks might mention President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points, or the creation of the League of Nations, but for many Americans, World War I is a forgotten war.
As human beings, we love stories. We like regaling our friends with tales from a recent road trip. We listen intently as grandma recounts that special moment she first met grandpa. Stories are how we relate to people. Stories help us form memories. Stories carry on tradition and culture from one generation to the next. The story is an powerful tool, and that’s why we’re focusing on creating story-based narrative content at the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).