Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day of remembering all the men and women who have died in the Armed Forces.
War is hell. Sometimes it is necessary, and I mourn those who have died in those wars; many times it is not, and I mourn even more those who died not in the cause of justice but in the cause of colonialism, adventurism, or enriching a few people back home. I mourn those on both sides who have died, because most people on either side of a war are not evil monsters, but people who are doing what they think is right, even if they’re fighting for a cause I find appalling. Similarly, on this Memorial Day, I remember the civilians– male and female– who have suffered and died, but are too often forgotten.
Below the cut I have included a few of my favorite poems about war.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
–Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est.
A. “I was a Have.” B. “I was a ‘have-not.’”
(Together.) “What hast thou given which I gave not?”
–Rudyard Kipling, Equality of Sacrifice
My son was killed while laughing at some jest. I would I knew
What it was, and it might serve me in a time when jests are few.
I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?
–Rudyard Kipling, A Dead Statesman