Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An easy life

I have watched two programs recently about war. A recreation of the Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, where after seven years, Julius Caesar's Roman army finally defeated Vercingetorix's Gauls, bringing fifteen million people into Rome's growing empire. And color films of World War II, focusing on the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Both of them are three-dimensional, detailed, concrete, almost unbelievable. The sheer physical effort and exhaustion involved. Both of them leave me speechless. So many men in history have been in war. I never have been.

That alone makes mine an easy life.

When I was on my way back to North America in 1974 after my year of study in Rome, I rented a car, a little deux-chevaux, to drive through France. Included in that trip was Normandy. I cannot say for sure if my memory is accurate, but I think it is truthful. I arrived near the beach late in the afternoon in summer, on an overcast day. I trudged up toward the hilly area that lead to the sea. And when I reached the top of the ridge, suddenly, spread out before me as far as the eye could see, between me and the water, in either direction, were thousands and thousands and thousands of white crosses. I had not cried for years, but when my eyes took that in, the graves of so many young men, many my own countrymen, who died violently far away from home and family, suddenly I stopped breathing and there was water falling down my face.

Even now, my instinct is the same.

I have had an easy life.


PNWReader said...

That brought back a memory. I happened to be in Ieper (Ypres) in November 1991. Fortunately, it was raining, so the bunch of guys I was with didn't notice that I couldn't stop crying.

Anonymous said...

Re the "physical effort" of wars: I saw recently a reference to the "labours" (it might have been "labors") or soldiers.

Re the weeping: I agree somehow; and yet worth considering seems to me the difference between the picturesque military cemeteries and the real events in which the soldiers fired weapons, were fired on, blinded and gas'd and were blinded and gas'd, kill'd and were kill'd, wounded and crippled and were wounded and crippled — and these real events arranged by the Gods and Goddesses of war. ... The kalon of the courage and comraderie of the young men is undeniable — which led Nietzsche to "the means [kaloi young men at war] justifies the end" or "a good war hallows any cause" (e.g. if the ultimate cause of the war is the ugly need for tension release among the ugly spectating deities, and the mediating causes are ugly war profiteers et al). But if the means — the beautiful brave and loyal young men — is higher, more worthy, than the end (the need for tension release in deities who cannot stand in the light of day), there should be some way to have the beautiful rule the ugly, correct the ugly. In the middle ages, the lord and lady spectators of jousting matches sat up close and personal; they presumably savour'd the violence and bravery, and did not merely read about their tension release in statistics and newspaper accounts.

... Whatever Tolstoy may have felt, I feel disgust and anger that the colonel "has to" dance attendance on the unmanly Freemason priest in War and Peace (Jihad and Islam?) whose cleverness and indfference to nobility enables him to climb high in the "inner ring" of the hierarchy.

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