Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday's Words for November 13, 2019

It’s altogether too easy, sometimes, to forget the hard-learned lessons humanity has faced throughout history. In our own lifetimes, we’ve witnessed the repetition of some of those lessons because they weren’t, obviously, learned the first or even second go-round.

We read that there will be wars, and rumors of wars, and indeed, that is one lesson that we seem fated to repeat over and over again. From the most ancient of times until today, we’ve not yet learned the art of living in society while curbing our greedy or aggressive tendencies. War is aggression, and whether we’re the one’s being belligerent or the ones fighting against the hostility, aggression and/or the thirst for power, another form of greed right up there with the craving for ideological supremacy, tends to be what’s at the heart of nearly every war in recorded history.

On Monday just passed we paused to celebrate our veterans and to commemorate the lives lost in the wars of the last two centuries—this one, and the one in which I was born. For until we as humans stop producing other humans who are aggressive and/or greedy—for power, for money or for ideological supremacy—wars will inevitably be waged. Those who had attempted to subvert our democracy in the 1930s and 1940s needed to be defeated in order to preserve the freedom they challenged. As to the first Great War—World War 1, the war for which the date of armistice was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, that began as a European conflict that, as the name implies, went global. A family feud, some historians have said, that simply got out of hand.

There might be some who believe that the transgression of the First World War wherein 15 to 19 million people died was punished by the appearance the Spanish Influenza pandemic that occurred in 1918—the last year of that war. Of the estimated 500 million people who were infected by that disease, an estimated 20 to 50 million people died. More than likely, since it was the first time there had been a great movement of humans globally, the disease was spread further and wider than it might otherwise have been.

At the time, those infected represented fully one third of the population of this planet. That’s jaw-dropping, as is the statistic that potentially 69 million people died in the four year span from 1914-1918.

It is necessary for us to remember that men and women have died, fighting those who would impose their will upon us. That’s the big picture, looking at it from thirty-thousand feet. But let’s not forget, ever, to look at history up close and personal. Let’s open our eyes, and our hearts, and see the families affected—the armchair that Father always sat in after supper as he read the paper. A chair forever after vacant and wanting. A family grieving for sons or daughters, mothers or fathers, families ripped apart, forever bleeding, forever grieving, never completely whole again, because of the fatalities of war.

Sacrifice, in all it’s horrific and holy forms, leaves an indelible mark, demanding remembrance.

We must never forget; but more, we must always remember. Not just on Veterans or Remembrance Day, and on Memorial Day. No, we must remember every day. 

When we listen to the debates of our parliaments and legislatures, we must remember. When our leaders tell us that we need to send our blood and treasure into harms way, we must remember. Let’s take the words of the British poet, Laurence Binyon, in his most famous work, “For the Fallen” to heart:

                    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
                                     We will remember them.

 As long as we never forget, as long as we strive to always remember the awful toll of war, we at least stand a chance of maybe, finally, someday, learning this lesson that history serves us on a continuous, solemn and never-ending loop. 


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