11 November 2008

Armistice Day

There's probably little hope in reclaiming the original intent of the November 11 memorial from the jingofied, American Legion war party that it and every other patriotic holiday has become. The American ruling class doesn't want anyone to think too long about the first world war, for we may take the wrong lesson about the pitfalls of imperial glory. Plus, we might discover how our freedom'n'liberty loving government enthusiastically jailed anyone speaking against the war on trumped-up sedition charges. So most Americans, to the extent they know anything about that war at all, have a very simplified view of it; as something very different from the war immortalized in Willfred Owen's famous poem.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
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.