There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all Hell.
William Tecumseh Sherman, June 19, 1879
Photo of the Gettysburg National Cemetery by Mike Davis.
I'm of two minds about Memorial Day. It's fitting to remember those who fell in battle, even in service of a dubious cause. Each soldier who died sacrificed a life for his or her country; their sense of duty and patriotism was the same whether death came in a justifiable cause like the Civil War or in a vain slaughter like the the Iraq War.
What concerns me about Memorial Day is the romanticizing of death in war. This weekend, we'll read newspapers accounts and see TV stories about grieving families. The stories will have an air of unreality, as scenes from a novel or film. As we honor the dead, it's important to recall that these victims are not abstract heroes from a movie. No: They are markers in the never ending tally of the cost of war. Each stone in the photo above represents a son, a husband, a brother, a cousin, a neighbor, a friend -- someone who had a life and lost it, someone whose loss diminished other lives. Each died mutilated and often in unbearable pain. Setting aside their suffering and reducing the pain caused by their deaths to a 60-second TV news spot makes the next war that much more likely.
Perhaps nothing has expressed the futility, loathsomeness, and inhuman barbarity of war as honestly Wilfrid Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est," written in the trenches of World War I:
Dulce et Decorum etWilfred Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918, a week before the end of World War I...
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
President Obama explains why Memorial Day is at the end of May and requests that we "hold our fallen heroes in your hearts and, if you can, ...lay a flower where they have come to rest." Too bad he's an America-hating communist...
Will Texas history books remember these vets?...
Tricycle with window and milk cans...
De wolf in sheep's clothing...
Quaking aspen leaves...
"We will be back"...
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed me by...
The Marshes of Glynn...
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Mouse has Fred Astaire singing one of the great songs ever (scroll down)...
PWALLY bides her time. After all, revenge is a dish best eaten cold...
The Sunday Funnies will return next week...