The dead, the dead, the dead
Our young men once so handsome and so joyous, taken from us
The son from the mother, the husband from the wife
The dear friend from the dear friend
And everywhere among these countless graves we see
and ages yet may see
on monuments and gravestones
singly or in masses, to thousands or tens of thousands,
the significant word: Unknown
- Walt Whitman, 1865
I'm writing this at eight o' clock. Today, a century ago, millions of people across the world looked at their watches and thought "Just three hours and it'll finally be over."
Is there any man left alive on Earth who can remember that moment in 1918? The soldiers are all gone. What about the people who watched them leave, and welcomed them back?
The British tailor who lost a son?
The Irish priest who dreamed of a free country?
The German school boy whose own country was so young?
The French writer who saw the City of Light in ruins?
The Russian peasant who seethed with discontent under the tsar?
The Indians, Australians, New Zealanders, and Canadians anxious to prove themselves?
The Ottoman imam who prayed for his crumbling empire?
Is there a doctor left who treated the maimed?
A child who wondered why his father couldn't sleep?
There's only one I can think of. Years ago I had the honor of meeting Alvin York's son. The most striking thing I learned from that visit to a small farm in rural Tennessee was that York mourned the men he killed.
Others reveled in it.
Hemingway turned his scars into words.
Hitler turned his words into weapons to inflict new scars upon flesh and earth.
And now only the earth itself stands as a testament to the Apocalypse.
Over ten million men died in the Great War.
And then the greatest pandemic since the Black Plague killed that many people all over again in mere months.
It all begs the question: have we learned?
"Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed...The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance."
-- Douglas McArthur, farewell to Congress, 1951
This blog has been inactive for a long time. I haven't had anything to say. Today is different. Since 1945 the scope and scale of war has been getting smaller. Fewer casualties. Precision strikes. Even the pain has been diminished somewhat. I'd say we've learned, but only some of the lessons.
We still hate those we do not understand.
We fight to possess what is not ours.
We claim rights that we are not capable of using responsibly.
Yet we call ourselves a free and enlightened people who are so much better than those idiots.
No wonder Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."
Being a historian offers a certain level of comfort. You know that events happen in a kind of cycle.
But only faith in and obedience to God offers a lasting, permanent hope.
"Cursed is the man who trusts in man, who draws strength from flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord." -- Jeremiah 17:5
I think history bears those words out to be true. Harlan Ellison once said, "I think we have the capacity to become god-like, but not if we believe we're just little pitiful creatures made of clay who're going to burn forever."
Yet, we cannot sustain our own lives without eating food or drinking water. We cannot learn without someone to pass knowledge down to us.
We cannot become more than we are without Someone to show us the way.
I'll never stop believing that. Mankind's very heart, mind, and soul are at stake.
In the midst of a great cultural regression, walking the narrow way might seem like swimming against the tide. It might seem backward, ridiculous; hateful and bigoted. And maybe reading this makes you bristle. If it makes you think, then that's enough for me. We can have that conversation another time.
But on this day, a day when so many others will let the hour of 11am pass without knowing how scared that hour was to so many, give thought to others.
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
-- John Done, 1624
Happy Armistice Day.