Sunday, November 10, 2013

Some Thoughts on Veterans' Day


Veterans' Day was originally Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War One.  Now that the last veterans of that war have died -- as Eric Bogle grimly predicted in his song, "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" -- Americans no longer remember that war, except as a historical incident with no more connection to our modern lives than the Civil War.  This is ironic, since both those wars shaped the nature of warfare ever since.

Both of them were wars of mass slaughter.  WWI killed no less than 11 million combatants, at a time when the world's population was less than half of what it is now, which sent the surviving populations of Europe reeling in shock.  Americans had a partial immunity to that shock, having seen 500,000 of its combatants killed in the Civil War -- particularly in the prophetic slaughter of Pickett's Charge, in the battle of Gettysburg.  As the poet Stephen Vincent Benet put it, "He went out with fifteen thousand;  He came back to his lines with five."

That shock and horror made too many governments reluctant to commit to war -- any war, no matter how necessary -- until too late for anything but mass slaughter.  If the other European governments had agreed to trounce Hitler when he moved against the first of his neighbors, Czechoslovakia, they could have prevented the immense slaughter -- 42 million -- of World War Two.  Thus did the fear of war make big wars inevitable.  There are times when a small, fast, decisive war can prevent a far worse one.

Robert Heinlein was once asked by a Politically Correct lady if he didn't agree that "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent". He replied, "Yes.  The competent resort to it much sooner, when it will do the most good."

All too few people -- from citizens to presidents -- understand the sense of that, which has led to the long-drawn out, miserable, indecisive wars the US has fought ever since WWII.  We, and our allies, seem to have learned all the wrong lessons from WWI.

Nonetheless, in honor of those who really thought that WWI would end wars, I dutifully hang out the flag on Veterans' Day.  Likewise, I wrote the following song for them -- with a Blues tune, that allows for slightly-sprung scansion, which I don't yet know how to record on my computer.  Ask me at the next filksing, and I'll perform it for you.

WAR NO MORE
(c) Leslie Fish, 11/12/01

1)
In the eleventh month,
On the eleventh day,
At the eleventh hour,
I heard the president say:

(CHO)   War no more.
               Make war no more.
               Go home to your families,
               War no more.
2)
We've fought and killed and wounded,
Until the ground is rough
With wreckage of the slaughter,
And we've all had enough.     CHO.

3)
The enemy is beaten.
He can barely raise a hand
To save his own, let alone
Take anyone else's land.

              War no more.
               Make war no more.
               Go home to your families,
               War no more.


--Leslie <;)))><   )O( 

6 comments:

ravenclaw-eric said...

My paternal grandfather was a WWI vet---I used to own his old uniform till I donated it to a museum. And my mother remembered, before WWII, reciting "On Flanders Fields" on what they called "Decoration Day" then.

Paradoctor said...

You say:
<<
There are times when a small, fast, decisive war can prevent a far worse one.
>>

True... and there are other times when a small, fast, decisive war becomes big, slow and indecisive. For instance, the Great War, a.k.a. WWI.

Joel C. Salomon said...

One way to get it recorded is to post a video or audio recording, and someone’ll reconstruct the score.

Joel C. Salomon said...

Another option is to transcribe the song without the swinginess, and include a tempo notation like “♫ = 3[♩ ♪]”; see, e.g., examples at http://lsr.dsi.unimi.it/LSR/Item?id=204.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Raven. Yes, I remember that poem! Our junior high-school history teacher had us read it. I always thought that those last few lines were a warning not to let tyrants go so far that another Great War was necessary -- as in the case of WWII.

Hi, Nat. The problem with WWI, it turns out, is that Germany wanted to stop before it got serious -- but the German army *didn't have the proper forms* to demobilize an army that hadn't fought yet! So they marched off to battle, and all the rest happened, because they didn't have the proper bureaucratic forms. Talk about the Horseshoe Nail Effect!

Hi, Joel. I'll ask my wizard about it, next chance I get. Best,

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Raven. Yes, I remember that poem! Our junior high-school history teacher had us read it. I always thought that those last few lines were a warning not to let tyrants go so far that another Great War was necessary -- as in the case of WWII.

Hi, Nat. The problem with WWI, it turns out, is that Germany wanted to stop before it got serious -- but the German army *didn't have the proper forms* to demobilize an army that hadn't fought yet! So they marched off to battle, and all the rest happened, because they didn't have the proper bureaucratic forms. Talk about the Horseshoe Nail Effect!

Hi, Joel. I'll ask my wizard about it, next chance I get. Best,

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(