Often careless Jupiter included the innocent with the guilty

As I write this, a small mass of humanity is assembled on the main plaza of my campus, dressed in military uniforms, standing at parade rest, listening to a speaker, marking the day. ROTC is small here; most of these students are standing in those ranks out of conviction, not as a grudging trade for the world-class education we hope to offer them. This relieves me a bit; I’ve taught in places where classes on Thursday dress day were filled by up to a quarter of future service men and women. Two of the cadet corps captains this year are women. They stand proudly in front of their troops.

All of their features are serious. Normally I don’t object to college students taking their lives a bit more seriously, working more actively to leave behind adolescence than many of them seem to be doing, but these are baby faces, really. Somehow their faces look younger when they’re all wearing the same uniform. I stopped to listen for a bit to the speaker, but I had to leave. Even though I respect these students and their commitment to their aims, I don’t want to witness them preached to about how the American public feels about them. I don’t want them to go to Afghanistan or anywhere except home to their loved ones. But I don’t get to decide.

In honor of Veterans’ Day, consider listening to excerpts from A War Less Ordinary at Richard Armitage Online. And think about praying that some day humans might manage to live without war, without demanding the extreme sacrifices of our loved ones for causes both dubious and noble.

Title is a quotation from Horace.

~ by Servetus on November 12, 2010.

14 Responses to “Often careless Jupiter included the innocent with the guilty”

  1. I listened to several WW II veterans recall their experiences today at Rotary; tomorrow I will hear a man recall three-and-a-half years as a Japanese POW. He was one of the survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March.

    I can only imagine the horrors of what he and others like him had to endure in those years. Little wonder the book he has written about his experiences is entitled “Hell’s Guest.”

    The VFW commander said today before introducing the veterans, “Some people see war as being like a movie–something glorious. But those who have served know it is not a beautiful thing.”

    Amen. And thank you to all who have put yourselves in harm’s way, and to all who sacrificed their life’s blood in the process.
    One day the lion shall finally lay down with the lamb.

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  2. That is the perfect sentiment, Angie. And Spero.

    There has been increasing attendance at our public Remembrance Day ceremonies in recent years, and increasing attention to recording the experiences of the WWII generation, for the historical record.

    Col. John MacRae was from my family Ontario city – we all learnt In Flanders’ Fields when we were seven or eight. The recitation in S7.1 rendered me teary-eyed.

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  3. One of my issues with Veterans’ Day since I’ve been an adult is that many people want, indeed need, to remember their loved ones who were veterans on the “wrong” side of particular conflicts. I hope that we can move in the future toward thinking about veterans’ days that simply mourn the sacrifice of human potential without having to make noble or castigate causes in particular. I think it’s too easy for me as an American to be focused on this day on triumphs like D-Day and not think of the families of the German soldiers who died on the beaches at Normandy, or to think of my own family members’ sacrifices in Vietnam but not of the women who mourned the deaths of Vietnamese. Often the judgments of history about the nobility of certain causes changes anyway. Mourning seems the only alternative.

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  4. As my husband has wisely pointed out, so many who fought on the “wrong” side in certain wars weren’t necessarily given a choice—all Germans certainly weren’t Nazis, for example, and towards the end of the war children and women were being forced into harm’s way by TPTB, sacrificed to overwhelming ambition. And unfortunately, that can happen with any country.

    The people on the “other side” have families and friends and sweethearts who care for them just as Americans have their loved ones.

    My father was an MP at a German prisoner of war camp in Tennessee (that’s where he met my mother . . . otherwise, I wouldn’t be here)and he talked about the guards teaching the prisoners how to play baseball. Some of the POWs actually came back and lived in the area (the beautiful Cumberland Plateau–can’t blame them) after the war.

    Daddy was looking through a magazine one day and one of the prisoners saw a photo that reminded him of “back home” so Daddy tore it out and gave it to him. He knew what it was like to feel homesick. When you get to know your enemy on a personal level, they don’t seem so–threatening.

    I just hope I don’t start crying during this POW’s speech tomorrow. I am afraid visions of poor tortured Lucas will dance in my head and I have to be the responsible journalist . . .

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    • But even Nazis had/have people who love them and mourn their sacrifices. That’s all I am saying.

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      • And I actually meant to say that, too, that even a so-called “bad” guy has someone who loves him and mourns him.

        When my ancestors who fought in the Civil War–the bloodiest and saddest chapter in American history, in my opinion–they were considered the “bad guys” and of course, they were mourned and missed when they perished just as Union soldiers were.

        I also think of those who commit crimes and end up in jail. It’s not just their victims and their families who suffer, it’s the criminal’s loved ones who suffer as well.

        War is clearly hell, and in the end, victory often comes at a very high price for both sides.

        (BTW on a lighter note, I was trying to hurry and wrap up things at the office so I could finally get home to cut Samson’s hair. It was actually longer than mine.)

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  5. I pray for peace every night. I pray for our soliders and their families. I pray for the men and women who serve and then come home missing limbs have PTSD.

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  6. I am grateful for those who died and served, and still serve, so that we can express ourselves openly on this blog. We know that isn’t possible everywhere in the world.

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  7. Thank you for your wonderful comments. As a German I really appreciate your thoughtful remarks. Here in Germany we do not have Remembrance Day and remembering the dead of WWII is not very much encouraged. We have a veterans day, but as it is more used in a political way, I only attended it once as a child by accident and never again (I even forgot the exact date of it).
    The only thing I can remember from my childhood where we actively acknowledged our dead was during All Hollows Day (1st of November ), when an old priest during my childhood always said one sentence after referring to all others died this year, last year, etc. “And now we remember all the dead of WWI and WWII.” And I can remember my parents whispering “He can do that, he is an old priest. They cannot throw him out as he has the support of the people.”
    I also know from my grandfather, that he was not an enthusiastic part of Nazi Germany. After the war he came into British war prison and of what he told me I recognized, that he held his prison guards in highest regard. Also my father, who with my grandmother had to leave his home after war, told me, that when they were in a camp an American went through the lines and asked who wanted to immigrate into the states. This impressed me greatly, that this offer was made to the defeated Germans after war. My grandparents could not take it, as they first had to find each other again.
    I believe that wonderful people can be found everywhere in the world as can be bad people.
    But the good ones especially meet here in this blog. Thank you!

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    • Volkstrauertag, sometime in November?

      Thanks for your story and for making this point so convincingly, CDoart? The burden of memory is hard in Germany — not just for Germans, but also for Jews. Sometimes I think we should be thankful for forgetfulness.

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  8. Visiting Normandy in ’04, Juno and Omaha, with Caen as our base, I wanted to visit the German cemetary. Time ran out for our trip. Next time; with spring flowers.

    Though with parents of Anglo and Irish ancestry, who survived service in the British and Canadian Navies, it is not possible to forget all those who served in that war. Including the civilians who did not survive the bombings of London, Coventry, Dresden.

    Two years in Vienna, in the ’70s, making some older Austrian friends, who were teenagers or very young during that war, and dreadful aftermath of Occupation and starvation, put another perspective on war in general.

    The point of Rememberance/Veterans’ Day is to not forget how dreadful and wasteful wars are. Not to glorify war.

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  9. […] I don’t have anything new to say this year, as my reaction is more or less the same every year, so if you’re interested in what I think, here are posts from previous years: 2012; and 2011; and 2010. […]

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  10. […] first, Veterans’ Day. I’ve written about it every year. Every year I hear about the war to end all wars. Every year I pray for an end to […]

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