Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

The military cemetery behind Fort Adams in Newport, RI

Music appropriate for the day - the great Eric Bogle's "No Man's Land", reaction to the death of a WWI soldier and a rumination on the nature of war and the governments that declare it.

War is sometimes necessary, but there's nothing glorious about it whatsoever. As General William Tecumseh Sherman is famous for telling some new recruits in 1879: "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all Hell." However, most wars aren't necessary at all, but rather the result of greed, aggression, or failed foreign policy - avoidable, except that those who declared them had a vested interest in waging war. Someone somewhere (I forget who now) said that if the old men who declare war had to fight in them we'd have world peace tomorrow. Another quote about war, this time about the causes, come from Baha'i leader 'Abdu'l-Baha on a visit to Paris in 1912: "Land belongs not to one people, but to all people. This earth is not man's home, but his tomb. It is for their tombs these men are fighting."

And those who suffer are the ones sent to fight for somebody else's cause. As Eric Bogle says in "No Man's Land":
And I can't help but wonder, now Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you 'The Cause?'
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
And again, as John McCutcheon writes in his own song "Christmas in the Trenches":
The ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame,
And on each end of the rifle we're the same.
So today we pay respects to the young men and women who were sent to do somebody else's dirty work. We pray long and hard that humanity will come to its senses and start to see war as a last resort and not as a standard foreign policy tool. And we pray that those now in harm's way in another part of the world come home safe and sound. Bring 'em home, and bring 'em home soonest! Here's Jesse Colin Young asking the same thing in his 2008 song "Bring 'Em Home":

Photo & text © 2010 by A. Roy Hilbinger; lyrics to "No Man's Land" © 1976 by Eric Bogle; lyrics to "Christmas in the Trenches" © 1984 by John McCutcheon.


  1. thanks for the jcy song...but, not to be confused with pete's song by the same name....which i wish had remembered when i put up the mouse post earlier today ....but who says I can't add it! and think i will!! thanks.

    thanks for the thoughtful post, but i admit to being an unashamed idealist and believe that war is NEVER necessary...there is ALWAYS another path....

    peace roy! xxxxx

  2. I prefer the song by War..."War, God God, what is it good for...absolutely nothin'"

    Still, I served 6 years so I understand the other opinion...

  3. Of course I misspelled "Good" with "God"...oops

  4. The American history of military involvement in other people's business is a sorry one. WW2 is the only foreign war that was justifiable; the rest were about imperialism or ego.

  5. Men are born to fight. We've done it for millenia and I have no idea why.

  6. You just reminded me of the post I had to finish.

  7. Sherman spoke with authority, of course. Then again, he was the leader of the "scorched earth" policy, wot?

    Interesting Abdu'l-Baha quote; never heard it ere but well put ;)

  8. Here, here.
    I can't say more than that.
    I can't put it any better than you have.