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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

No matter your political persuasion, they died for us.

inflandersfields British-soldiers-in-Afgha-001
War, I’m sure you do not need telling, is an insult to humanity, the human spirit does not need it, nor does it countenance it.
War is made by politicians, not soldiers, in our name, in the name of faceless people who put a faceless X in a box come election day, depending on how they feel at that time.  The war to end all wars was played out in foreign fields for us, the electorate, to feel safer in our warm, comfortable beds, safe in the knowledge that our sons were fighting a just cause, even though they may lose their lives. And yet countless wars have been waged in our name since, and often before, 1916.
I am not often given to poetry but Wilfred Owen speaks to me on the subject of war:
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretch\ed forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him.  Behold,
A ram caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son. . . .
I am in no way religious but words have a habit of rousing me within. Nothing touches me more than this poem by Wilfred Owen, it brings home, to my benefit laden, comfy life, the horrors of conflict made by politicians:
We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,
And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell
Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.
Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime
Kept slush waist high, that rising hour by hour,
Choked up the steps too thick with clay to climb.
What murk of air remained stank old, and sour
With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of men
Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,
If not their corpses. . . .
                             There we herded from the blast
Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.
Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.
And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
And splashing in the flood, deluging muck --
The sentry's body; then his rifle, handles
Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined
"O sir, my eyes -- I'm blind -- I'm blind, I'm blind!"
Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids
And said if he could see the least blurred light
He was not blind; in time he'd get all right.
"I can't," he sobbed.  Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids
Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him there
In posting next for duty, and sending a scout
To beg a stretcher somewhere, and floundering about
To other posts under the shrieking air.
Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,
And one who would have drowned himself for good, --
I try not to remember these things now.
Let dread hark back for one word only:  how
Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,
And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,
Renewed most horribly whenever crumps
Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath --
Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout
"I see your lights!"  But ours had long died out.
As a man I believe in self defence, I believe in defending my country against all threats to our to our liberty and heritage given to me by others, others who have died to defend it, I do not give it away lightly, that includes threats within, and yes, that includes war. I will fight to my imaginary death to remain a free man in the country of my birth but will I lay down my life for it?

In Flanders Fields

By John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row by row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
                    In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If yea break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
                    In Flanders fields.


There are ordinary men and women who recognise the suffering that our soldiers go through, until their untimely death and lament their passing at the hands of their supposed betters, those that will parry a human life for the greater good for you, in your nice warm bed, free from strife and the machinations of man made wars.
I leave you, dear readers, with the bio of Wilfred Owen, a man who could put into words that his fellow combatants could not, he spoke for them, he felt their pain of bloody war and, in the end, he paid the ultimate price that politicians do not dare to ask of [in their political warm bed] us, sound in our safe, warm beds he paid the ultimate price, he paid with his life, the ultimate sacrifise.
Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was born on March 18, 1893 in Shropshire, England. After the death of his grandfather in 1897, the family moved to Birkenhead, where Owen was educated at the Birkenhead Institute. After another move in 1906, he continued his continued his studies at the Technical School in Shrewsbury. Interested in the arts at a young age, Owen began to experiment with poetry at 17.
After failing to gain entrance into the University of London, Owen spent a year as a lay assistant to Reverend Herbert Wigan in 1911 and went on to teach in France at the Berlitz School of English. By 1915, he became increasingly interested in World War I and enlisted in the Artists' Rifles group. After training in England, Owen was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
He was wounded in combat in 1917 and evacuated to Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh after being diagnosed with shell shock. There he met another patient, poet Siegfried Sassoon, who served as a mentor and introduced him to well-known literary figures such as Robert Graves and H. G. Wells.
It was at this time Owen wrote many of his most important poems, including "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and "Dulce et Decorum Est". His poetry often graphically illustrated both the horrors of warfare, the physical landscapes which surrounded him, and the human body in relation to those landscapes. His verses stand in stark contrast to the patriotic poems of war written by earlier poets of Great Britain, such as Rupert Brooke.
Owen rejoined his regiment in Scarborough, June 1918, and in August returned to France. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at Amiens. He was killed on November 4 of that year while attempting to lead his men across the Sambre canal at Ors. He was 25 years old. The news reached his parents on November 11, the day of the Armistice. The collected Poems of Wilfred Owen appeared in December 1920, with an introduction by Sassoon, and he has since become one of the most admired poets of World War I.
A review of Owen's poems published on December 29th, 1920, just two years after his death, read "Others have shown the disenchantment of war, have unlegended the roselight and romance of it, but none with such compassion for the disenchanted nor such sternly just and justly stern judgment on the idyllisers."
About Owen's post-war audience, the writer Geoff Dyer said, "To a nation stunned by grief the prophetic lag of posthumous publication made it seem that Owen was speaking from the other side of the grave. Memorials were one sign of the shadow cast by the dead over England in the twenties; another was a surge of interest in spiritualism. Owen was the medium through whom the missing spoke."
Is life so cheap that we are prepared to waste it in this way? Your sons and daughters are worth more than mere political cannon fodder.
You must ask yourself some uncomfortable questions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said.


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