Sunday, November 11, 2007

On beating the drums of War

One of the reasons I think there is so little meaningful opposition to war in this country is because it lacks an ancestral memory of it, and is ruled by a class that's never had any experience in war.

It is Veterans Day here in the US, and apart from a few official activities, I can't really see any evidence that anyone cares, apart from Veterans' Day sales at the mall. This in marked contrast to the Commonwealth.

To Americans, war is something theoretical. War has not touched American soil this century. The American memory of war is one of Victory--the saviours of the World in the Second and First World Wars (forget they stood on the side for years while the youth of Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain died). Viet Nam is an exception, but I would suggest that the cultural impact of it sweeps away the military memory.

Yet as a kid in Canada, I was always aware of the War. I can remember being a kid in a mall and the PA announcing that there would be two minutes' silence. Every day at the great doors of my high school, I walked past two plaques with the names of the dead from my high school in the two Wars. We had a long Remembrance Day ceremony every year, and in my last year I played The Last Post and Reville. When I got to Cambridge, in my college boathouse was a plaque commemorating the hundreds who died in the war. The same with our college chapel.

And I think the ancestral memory for Canadians, and far more for the English, French, Germans, etc., is that war is cataclysm. War is massive personal loss on a titanic, universal scale. War is sacrifice. Canada sent 1 million soldiers to the First World War, out of a population of 7 million. England, France, and Germany saw their cities destroyed. The little countries of Europe can remember occupation. The city of Halifax was destroyed.

The United States exited the Second War as the greatest power on earth. France, Britain, the Empire were bankrupt. German was in ruins.

This, to the war-cheering classes here in the United States, seems to be forgotten. It is easy for Cheney or Bush to send other peoples' kids to die. It plays into Americans' self-confidence, their self-assuredness, and their memory of war--the US coming to save the day.

That crowd might do better to read Wilfred Owen's poem, Dulce et Decorum Est:

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 hootsOf tired, outstripped Five-Nines 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 flound'ring 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.

6 comments:

Fred Bracken said...

Noone cares about 'War' is America?

Are you mentally retarded?

Americans are far more proud of their military history than Canadians are.

The United States of America is the greatest country in the world.

They are a proud people who give more money to other countries and charities than any other country including Canada.

Without American support through the lend/lease act and their support from men on the ground,everyone in Europe would be speaking German right now.

When you say Americans don't appreciate the sacrifice I wonder if your really in Los Angeles.

But then again, most of the people in L.A are illegal aliens so one can understand why those people are not into American history.

Your a typical leftist with no brains.

You should return to Canada as soon as you can so you can join all the pinheads in this country like Dion and Layton.

Fred Bracken said...

Well you want me to prove America is the greatest country in the world?

Why don't we ask Avril Lavigne or Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux?

Or why don't we ask all the doctors, nurses and professionals who move to America on a daily basis?

Or why don't we ask Michael Ignatiff who lived in Ma.?

Or why don't we ask Jim Carrey who lives in the good ole' USA.

How about yourself who lives in L.A?

How about the fact that President Bush led the way to getting rid of Saddam?

How about the fact that the USA is responsible for peace on the Korean peninsula?

How about the fact the USA gives more aid to foreign counries than anyone else in the world?

How about the fact that the best cancer treatments are in the USA? Ask Belinda Stronach.

How about the fact 99 percent of pro sports is in the USA?

How about the fact that the best movies are made in the USA?

How about the fact that the USA saved the French from being destroyed in WW2? Ask Nikolas Sarkozy.

How about the fact that America believes marriage is between one man and one woman and not between homosexuals? Jean Chretien at one time believed the same thing but because of pressure from Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal he changed his mind for homosexual votes.

How about the fact that the USA is responsible for putting people,including Canadians in space?

How about the fact that the USA is winning the war on terror and crushing the muslim terrorists?

How about the fact that Canadians are fascinated with America and its politics?

How about the fact that without the USA Canada would be like Hungary?

How about the fact that Canada relies on America to survive, with 80 % of its exports going to Canada?

Should I keep going?

Mike B said...

Yes, keep going, because it is absolutely hilarious and a classic example of hysterical right-wing rant turned unintentional self-parody.

Fred Bracken said...

I have to crorrect my last post.

It should have said that Canada sends 80% of its exports to American.

Not the other way around.

Mike B said...

That's not all you have to 'crorrect'. Canada only sends 76% of our imports to 'American'. And the percentage has been dropping rapidly as we diversify our markets. And this despite our surging dollar. Relative to the USD. Ahem.

Dean P said...

And, on the fact that Canada sends a lot of its exports to the US, you're overlooking what that means: the United States' chronic trade deficit. You buy our shit cos you can't sell your own. We get rich. Um?

You can keep going with individualized examples of how you contend the US is the "greatest" country in the world. That proves nothing. We could all recite examples of what makes any country "great" by way of little things like that (Avril Lavigne? Come on, dude). For every little individual example you give, I could give you ten, and for each of those you could give me ten. Ad nauseum.

But you can't quantify it by a general metric. Say, by percentage of people with health care. Or percentage of people with college degrees. Etc etc etc... Give us some generalized metrics, not simply the rhetoric of "greatest country in the world."

And if you come back with "most power" I'll call bullshit. Just cos you can bomb cities into rubble doesn't make you great.