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Lest We Forget
November 11, 2007 9:03 AM   Subscribe

In many Commonwealth countries, today is Remembrance Day. From Wikipedia, it's "a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and civilians in times of war". Today it's worth reading a few famous wartime poems, and pausing in thanks to those who have fought for your country.
posted by dbarefoot (83 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite war poem: Dulce et Decorum Est.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:14 AM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Let's also pause in thanks to those who were persuaded they were fighting for your country but were actually fighting for certain powerful entrenched interests and against the principles your country and the interests of its citizens.

Well, maybe not thanks exactly, but at least, y'know, appreciation of the fact that they meant well, and sacrifice is sacrifice even when you've been duped by flag-waving monsters.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:15 AM on November 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


The poetry of Wilfred Owens.

He wrote the one ArticWoman linked to.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:24 AM on November 11, 2007


.

I love Remembrance Day. It's one of the few holidays that, for me anyways, has always had and always will have real meaning, and hasn't been overtaken by vapid consumerism.
posted by patr1ck at 9:27 AM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


...and, since we have the antiwar, antisoldier movement represented here, let's see the other side, too:

Homage To A Government
Philip Larkin

Next year we are to bring all the soldiers home
For lack of money, and it is all right.
Places they guarded, or kept orderly,
We want the money for ourselves at home
Instead of working. And this is all right.

It's hard to say who wanted it to happen,
But now it's been decided nobody minds.
The places are a long way off, not here,
Which is all right, and from what we hear
The soldiers there only made trouble happen.
Next year we shall be easier in our minds.

Next year we shall be living in a country
That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.
The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
Our children will not know it's a different country.
All we can hope to leave them now is money.
posted by koeselitz at 9:29 AM on November 11, 2007


George_Spiggot: "Let's also pause in thanks to those who were persuaded they were fighting for your country but were actually fighting for certain powerful entrenched interests and against the principles your country and the interests of its citizens... Well, maybe not thanks exactly, but at least, y'know, appreciation of the fact that they meant well, and sacrifice is sacrifice even when you've been duped by flag-waving monsters.

Oh, Christ. Is it possible that anyone who ever gave their lives for a country was right to do so? Or are you cynics so anti-political that mere patriotism is a sin to you?
posted by koeselitz at 9:31 AM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love Remembrance Day. It's one of the few holidays that, for me anyways, has always had and always will have real meaning, and hasn't been overtaken by vapid consumerism.

Which is ironic when you consider what a big business war is.
You don't suppose the vapid consumerism is hidden in your tax dollars?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:36 AM on November 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


some wars worth the horrors. Others, not. But here, two novels, neglected, I had read and found well worth reading
http://www.todayinliterature.com/today.asp?Search_Date=11/11/2007
posted by Postroad at 9:45 AM on November 11, 2007


The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
posted by kirkaracha at 9:45 AM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Which is ironic when you consider what a big business war is.
You don't suppose the vapid consumerism is hidden in your tax dollars?


What? Consumerism is defined as the preoccupation of society acquisition of consumer goods. Guns, helicopters, flak vests, and tanks are hardly what I would call "consumer goods". I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.
posted by patr1ck at 9:46 AM on November 11, 2007


Erm, "the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods", I mean.
posted by patr1ck at 9:48 AM on November 11, 2007


Oh, Christ. Is it possible that anyone who ever gave their lives for a country was right to do so? Or are you cynics so anti-political that mere patriotism is a sin to you?

I'm not sure what you mean in by your comment. For instance, what do you mean by "right to do so"? As in, they made the correct choice to murder other people and be murdered themselves?

Also, what do you mean by "mere patriotism"? Is it patriotic to murder other people who are not from your country because your "boss" (who, naturally, does not fight) told you to?

Why is it considered glorious to kill other human beings in the name of your country?
posted by cdmckay at 10:00 AM on November 11, 2007


Is it possible that anyone who ever gave their lives for a country was right to do so?

It is quite possible, but that assumption is the one that's been crowed and trumpeted for all of human history, as far as I can tell, and used to ennoble things that should never have happened. To suggest that not all wars are worth dying for and that the sacrifice of some soldiers is not just a tragedy but a crime against them is not to say it is always the case.

Or are you cynics so anti-political that mere patriotism is a sin to you?

A bit of a false dichotomy, but on the whole I would say that "mere patriotism" is at best a mistake and at worst jingoism. Patriotism founded in principle and noble motives is a fine thing. Patriotism of the sort that demands that one's country actually be great, rather than just crowing that it automatically is, is a fine thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:00 AM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't suppose you folks could have this discussion in some other thread, some other time? You're acting like Fred Phelps.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:03 AM on November 11, 2007


...are you cynics so anti-political that mere patriotism is a sin to you?

It would appear so, koeselitz. But I'm sure he meant well.
posted by wafaa at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2007


Magpies in Picardy, T P Cameron Wilson, 1888-1918.
posted by frobozz at 10:09 AM on November 11, 2007


cdmckay: "Why is it considered glorious to kill other human beings in the name of your country?"

It's not "glorious." It awful. And sometimes it's right. When those who fought did so in defense of something fine, in defense of the clothing of the poor and the feeding of families, and against terrible and horrible and tyrannous things, it's heroic.

And many of them did. That's all I'm saying-- that they deserve priority. And I only ask that we remember them first, before descending into keening regret and mindless pacifism. I am no lover of war, but I know what I owe to those people. The hatred of war and the honor of soldiers have their place side by side, but in this case, one comes first.

And I find it somewhat funny that we can only muster the other anymore.
posted by koeselitz at 10:13 AM on November 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Today the soldier counts more than the cause, the battle more than the war.

Today we remember that sometimes people sacrifice their lives, limbs, sanity, and souls.

Today is not about glory. Put down your guns, boys.
posted by zennie at 10:14 AM on November 11, 2007


And The Turret Gunner's Farewell, by metafilter's own LN - refers to WWII rather than WWI, but still appropriate, not to mention excellent.
posted by frobozz at 10:14 AM on November 11, 2007


cdmckay: "Why is it considered glorious to kill other human beings in the name of your country?"

It's not "glorious." It awful. And sometimes it's right. When those who fought did so in defense of something fine, in defense of the clothing of the poor and the feeding of families, and against terrible and horrible and tyrannous things, it's heroic.

And many of them did. That's all I'm saying-- that they deserve priority. And I only ask that we remember them first, before descending into keening regret and mindless pacifism. I am no lover of war, but I know what I owe to those people. The hatred of war and the honor of soldiers have their place side by side, but in this case, one comes first.

And I find it somewhat funny that we can only muster the other anymore.
posted by koeselitz at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2007


sorry about the repost there
posted by koeselitz at 10:16 AM on November 11, 2007


The whip-crack of a Union Jack
In a stiff breeze (the ship will roll),
Deft abracadabra drums
Enchant the patriotic soul-

A grandsire in St James's Street
Sat at the window of his club,
His second son, shot through the throat,
Slid backwards down a slope of scrub,

Gargled his last breaths, one by one by one,
In too much blood, too young to spill,
Died difficultly, drop by drop by drop-
'By your son's courage, sir, we took the hill.'

They took the hill (Whose hill? What for?)
But what a climb they left to do!
Out of that bungled, unwise war
An alp of unforgiveness grew.


- William Plomer

He was writing about the Boer War. I think this almost forgotten bit of war poetry works very neatly for some more recent, and continuing, conflicts.
posted by WPW at 10:18 AM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's just my experience, but a key component of Remembrance Day has been the fervent wish that we never have to fight another war or lose another generation of young people to violence and bloodshed. Often it's the veterans themselves who speak loudest that we must avoid war at all costs. And all this takes place alongside tributes to the fallen and recognition of their sacrifice.

I see no reason why pacifism and Remembrance Day can't go together.
posted by chrominance at 10:27 AM on November 11, 2007 [5 favorites]


From Ezra Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberley...
IV.
These fought in any case,
And some believing,
pro domo, in any case…

Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later…
some in fear, learning love of slaughter;

Died some, pro patria,
non “dulce” not “et decor”…
walked eye-deep in hell
believing old men’s lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;
usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

fortitude as never before

frankness as never before,
disillusions as never told in the old days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies.

V.
There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization,

Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
Quick eyes gone under earth’s lid,

For two gross of broken statues,
For a few thousand battered books.
posted by nasreddin at 10:27 AM on November 11, 2007


What? Consumerism is defined as the preoccupation of society acquisition of consumer goods. Guns, helicopters, flak vests, and tanks are hardly what I would call "consumer goods". I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.
posted by patr1ck


Sorry. My mistake. The guns used kill deer are consumer goods. The guns used to kill people are not. The helicopters used in logging or to transport heli-skiers are consumer goods. The helicopters used to transport troops or fire missles are not. I get it now. Carry on.

Steven C. Den Beste: I like many of your comments. I disagree with some. But you, of all MeFites, should recognize people's right to inject contrary opinions and promote debate. FPPs are not supposed to be editorials, but this one is a bit loaded. Must we limit our discussion to saying nice things about veterans? I listened to some WWII vets on the radio this morning, and without exception they said that war is stupid. It's a sham. One of them described wondering, while he was bombing Germany, why he was killing those people. Another said the distinction often made between WWII and current wars does not hold--they're all pretty much the same. Many veterans, when they come back, don't want our thanks so much as the chance to atone for their sins. Many veterans do not want us to simply grease the wheels on Remembrance Day. I thank them for that.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:34 AM on November 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


.
posted by quonsar at 10:41 AM on November 11, 2007


“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." - General Douglas MacArthur

In the world as it stands now, the military is what one would call a 'necessary evil.' And to be willing to lay down your very life to defend others is a noble calling. And while I may detest the ways that impulse has been cynically exploited by many, I will not denigrate the sacrifices of those who felt it.

It's not "glorious." It awful. And sometimes it's right. When those who fought did so in defense of something fine, in defense of the clothing of the poor and the feeding of families, and against terrible and horrible and tyrannous things, it's heroic.

Sometimes, I wonder if the heroism and the huge mistakes don't often go hand-in-hand. In World War II, the US military was heroic and did help save the world from something terrible and tyrannous. And I think that led us to believe that we could do that everywhere like Vietnam, Korea, and The Persian Gulf and the cost has been tremendous. But just the same, I respect the sacrifices and bravery of those caught up in it. You're better men than I.
posted by jonmc at 10:46 AM on November 11, 2007


It's not "glorious." It awful. And sometimes it's right.

Give me a fucking break. The "good" fights are few and far between. Nearly every war in history has been fought because an aggressor wanted land, or resources, or political control, and that includes very nearly every war fought by the US. There's nothing good about. There's nothing commendable about it. It's a tragedy and a long series of crimes, and pretending that fighting the Nazis in WWII was in any way typical of war, either American war or any other nation's, is dishonest and nauseating.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:49 AM on November 11, 2007


.
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 10:53 AM on November 11, 2007


It is good that Remebrance Day is to mark World War One. Suck an epic clusterfuck that makes Iraq look positivly heroic -- unlike WW2 no nation was "right," all were culpable in one way or another. Germany weren't the evil Nazi's they were in WW2, they were just the losers (not to trivialize WW2). And, never before or since has life been wasted in such stupid ways. There's stupid tactics and there's charging into machine gun fire, repeatedly.

If such a useless, pointless, wasteful meatgrinder couldn't be the war to end all wars it's proof that there will never be such a thing.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 10:53 AM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Our compliments, it was nice having war with you dear Commonwealth. I hope that your every war will be like Finland vs. U.K. in World War II. No fighting at all and courteous relations between parties. Please, keep it that way in your future endeavors too.
posted by Free word order! at 10:55 AM on November 11, 2007


unlike WW2 no nation was "right," all were culpable in one way or another.

WWI makes a lot more sense if you consider it to be basically a jumbo-sized version of the wars that Europe spent its history fighting against itself.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:56 AM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Meta
posted by rockhopper at 11:01 AM on November 11, 2007


Much of World War II itself was not the Good Fight people imagine it to be. D-Day, for instance, and the opening of the Western Front in 1944, came far too late to make any difference--the Russians would have defeated Hitler at that point regardless of American involvement. In fact, the purpose was to prevent Stalin from overrunning all of Europe rather than just half of Germany (which was admittedly not a bad goal in itself).
posted by nasreddin at 11:07 AM on November 11, 2007


War! What's it good for?

Poetry, patriotism and solemn days of rememberance. I guess.
posted by loquacious at 11:08 AM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


nasreddin writes "Ezra Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberley..."

Hmm. I don't know if Pound, a fascist traitor who manged to sit out WW1 and spent WW2 propagandizing for Mussolini, is my idea of a Veterans' Day poet.
posted by orthogonality at 11:29 AM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, W B Yeats

In my chapel choir days, on Remembrance Sunday we would always sing John Ireland's 1912 anthem "Greater Love" (as well as one of the canticles settings by Howells.) I miss it more than I thought I would.

(not religious, just a singer)
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:35 AM on November 11, 2007



Hmm. I don't know if Pound, a fascist traitor who manged to sit out WW1 and spent WW2 propagandizing for Mussolini, is my idea of a Veterans' Day poet.


I don't think a philistine is my idea of a judge of poetry.
posted by nasreddin at 11:40 AM on November 11, 2007


I don't care what your politics are: as a member of society your continued safety ultimately depends on there being people who are willing to give whatever they have to--even their lives--to fight for you. No matter what wars they ended up fighting, we owe those who died while serving their country our gratitude and respect.

This is why the good fights/bad fights debate is in my mind somewhat beside the point. And it makes Remembrance Day (at its best) an extremely apolitical holiday.
posted by goingonit at 11:45 AM on November 11, 2007


Army Dreamers.
posted by loquacious at 11:48 AM on November 11, 2007


An article by British historian Niall Ferguson published yesterday on the proliferation and hence cheapening of Remembrance Days. Prose, I am afraid so perhaps a bit of derail.
posted by shothotbot at 11:53 AM on November 11, 2007


Sorry. My mistake. The guns used kill deer are consumer goods. The guns used to kill people are not. The helicopters used in logging or to transport heli-skiers are consumer goods. The helicopters used to transport troops or fire missles are not. I get it now. Carry on.

I still don't know what you're talking about. I would make the argument, yes, that hunting rifles are not in the same class as automatic weapons. And helicopters aren't consumer goods, period. How people do you know who personally own a helicopter? Right.

Seriously, I'm not being argumentative here or anything, I honestly just don't understand the point you're trying to make with regards to my comments. I completely agree with you on your other points. Also, what chrominance said.
posted by patr1ck at 11:54 AM on November 11, 2007


Both my grandfathers were soldiers in WWII. I was always told that Remembrance Day was to remember the sacrifices of people who go to war. In other words, I was told that I should be thinking about how horrible war is and how important it was that I go to any lengths possible to find a better solution than asking young people to give up their lives, health, sanity and loved ones so that they could go to war. I was told to think about how it was for people whose sons, husbands and fathers went off to war and what it did to our society. I was told to think about what the war did to the people in the countries being bombed (since my grandma was from one). I was always a bit stunned when, in school, other kids would say Remembrance Day glorified war. I'd always thought it did the opposite. I guess it depends on how you've been taught to frame it.
posted by acoutu at 11:58 AM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


11:00 11/11/18 -

I wanted to make light of this, make an 11/11/11 Never Forget joke to go along with all the other 11's people have to remember (9/11 11/5), but my heart's not really in it.

When I think about the first and second world wars, I think about all the young men who were forced to fight and die for their countries. It's a political view I guess, but in those two world wars (most obviously in the first world war) the governments of our parents and our grand parents basically forced civilians to go out and be killed. Thank god the draft doesn't exist any more.

Here's to the soldiers who died fighting for my freedoms, and here's to the soldiers who continue to fight and be maimed, who kill and are killed in my name. I don't wear the poppy, but I'll never forget.
posted by seanyboy at 12:01 PM on November 11, 2007


I don't know if Pound, a fascist traitor who manged to sit out WW1 and spent WW2 propagandizing for Mussolini, is my idea of a Veterans' Day poet.

Larkin wasn't far behind in that regard, either.
posted by 3.2.3 at 12:04 PM on November 11, 2007


Metafilter: A piping hot cup of deleted STFU. .. And something to remember it by.
posted by Balisong at 12:05 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I respect anybody's right to disagree with Remembrance Day, and what it stands for.

You can have 364 days a year to do that.

Today, though, is different. Today you ought to shut up. Show a little regard for fallen soldiers, and those who want to honor them.
posted by dbarefoot at 12:11 PM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yeah! It's not like those soldiers fought for your right to oppose the wars they fought in, or anything.

(It's not like people are opposing the soldiers themselves.)
posted by Balisong at 12:17 PM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't care what your politics are: as a member of society your continued safety ultimately depends on there being people who are willing to give whatever they have to--even their lives--to fight for you.

George Orwell put it well: "Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf."
posted by WPW at 12:22 PM on November 11, 2007


Both my grandfathers were soldiers in WWII. I was always told that Remembrance Day was to remember the sacrifices of people who go to war.

See, I respect what you're saying in most of your post. But I have a problem with this notion of sacrifice. "Sacrifice" implies a voluntary choice to give something up in order to achieve certain goals. Many (most?) soldiers were conscripted - they had zero choice in the matter. And in many wars (especially WW1), the causes that they were supposedly fighting for were totally misrepresented - as others have said, it wasn't good vs evil.

Or are you cynics so anti-political that mere patriotism is a sin to you?

Patriotism, along with loyalty to a particular class, race, religion, sex or anything else other than the human race as a whole, is a sin to me, yes: "that old lie, dulce et decroum est propartria mori".
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:24 PM on November 11, 2007


So, according to some, remembering them may not include remembering why they died, and vowing to do better by the ones who serve us today and will serve us tomorrow?

The dead can't speak, and if they could they probably wouldn't vote in a bloc, but I still can't help thinking that that's what many of them would want.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2007


If Remembrance Day is truly not about glorifying war, truly not about unquestioning sacrifice and the shamefulness of driving young men to kill, then here is how you remember it:

No parades. No marches. No flowers. No platitude-filled speeches from politicians. No fly-overs by combat aircraft. No ropes pulled to unveil yet another heroic bronze depiction of a man at arms.

Instead, take your largest open public square and fill it with skulls. White, polished, gleaming, held in storage for this day. Millions upon millions of empty, grinning skulls. A Killing Field of bones, showing every possible means of death: craniums smashed in with hammers, temples pierced with bullets, lacerated with scars from machetes.

No names. No roll-call of heroes or lists of deeds. Just the skulls. With everyone - young and old - required to take a walk through the heaped avenues of dead.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:37 PM on November 11, 2007 [9 favorites]


Bring Him Home [YouTube]. *

* - "...schools, particulary more middle and high schools than some elementary schools, throughout the U.S. usually hold assemblies on a school day prior, with various presentations recognizing teachers and staff members who served in one of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, as well as remembering the U.S. troops who died in past and present wars, and some patriotic music by a school choir, band and/or orchestra, including songs from a musical used as a tribute to the troops (e.g. "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables)."
posted by ericb at 12:55 PM on November 11, 2007


The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Ah, Gallipoli -- an incredible film.
posted by ericb at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2007


War! What's it good for?
Elaine: That is so true! Although one wonders if "War and Peace" would has been as highly acclaimed as it was if it was published under it's original name "War -- What Is It Good For?"

Lippman: What?

Elaine: Yes. Mr. Lippman. It was his mistress who insisted he called it "War and Peace." "War -- What Is It Good For."(sang) Absolutely nothin'! (spoken to Testikov) that's the song that they got from Tolstoy.

Lippman: I'm sorry, it's just her sense of humor.

(Elaine's organizer starts beeping) *
posted by ericb at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2007


Bora Horza Gobuchul writes "No names. No roll-call of heroes or lists of deeds. Just the skulls. With everyone - young and old - required to take a walk through the heaped avenues of dead."

You mean, sort of like when Patton forced German civilians to walk through Buchenwald?

Which wouldn't have happened without our soldiers -- our roll-call of heroes -- and their deeds in fighting and dying to defeat Nazi Germany, and thus liberate the deathcamps.
posted by orthogonality at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]



Which wouldn't have happened without our soldiers -- our roll-call of heroes -- and their deeds in fighting and dying to defeat Nazi Germany, and thus liberate the deathcamps.

Nah, the Russians would've taken it just as easily if Patton weren't there. What would have happened to the inmates is a different question.
posted by nasreddin at 1:25 PM on November 11, 2007


.
posted by MarshallPoe at 1:32 PM on November 11, 2007


I can not help but wonder what I, personally, would have done; how I would have handled being conscripted for participating in war, whether it be, for example, WWII or the Vietnam War. It's by an accident of "birth" that I missed these events.

Set aside the current state of worldwide politics. Set aside the current war in Iraq. Watch the HBO series Band of Brothers (based on "real events.") and Ken Burn's recent PBS series The War.

If after watching these programs, you don't come out respectful for, humbled by and thankful for the actions of those (e.g. American, British, Russian, etc.) who were thrust into circumstances beyond their own choosing and control, then I suspect you lack some things that are basic to "being human."
posted by ericb at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think that especially during Rememberance day ceremonies, the focus is less on war as glorious or noble and more on a sense of "More people than you can comfortably comprehend died in this, so lets all be quiet for a minute and just think about that fact.". For example when I was in high school we had an english teacher who would read Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est during the remembrance day ceremony.

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 disappointed shells 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 floundering 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.

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.

posted by Grimgrin at 1:39 PM on November 11, 2007


Russians would have defeated Hitler at that point regardless of American involvement.

Regardless of American fighting, yes.

Regardless of American involvement, maybe not. It's a fair question about what would have happened if the USSR hadn't had the 15000 planes, 7000 tanks, 50000 jeeps, and 375000 trucks the US sent them. Especially the 375000 trucks.

And the substantial redeployments of the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe before the 1944 invasion also lightened the load for the Soviet advance. Every Bf-109 and FW-190 that were busy defending Germany weren't strafing Soviet logistics columns, every 88 shooting at B-17s and Lancs wasn't at Kursk, etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:08 PM on November 11, 2007


Here, Bullet
If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.


-Brian Turner

More about the author here: The horror of Iraq, in poetry.
posted by homunculus at 2:10 PM on November 11, 2007


Those soldiers died so that you don't have to shut the fuck up. Those soldiers died so that when someone tells you to shut the fuck up, you can tell them to shut the fuck up, and you won't end up at the business end of a boomstick. They spilled their blood for you. They paid that price so you can take freedom for granted. We shouldn't need a day of remembrance to think on that. We should think on that every single fucking day of the year. Because we don't, we lose track of another price that must be paid: eternal vigilance, and when that happens, the cost for freedom starts racking up again. I fear a day will come all too soon when some of you will know first hand what Tom meant when he said..

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

..and some of you will then be remembered on days like this. This entire thread is a disgrace. The bill for freedom? It's coming due.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:11 PM on November 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's just my experience, but a key component of Remembrance Day has been the fervent wish that we never have to fight another war or lose another generation of young people to violence and bloodshed. Often it's the veterans themselves who speak loudest that we must avoid war at all costs.

True. Unfortunately, nobody's listening.

While parts of Remembrance Day are very moving, I can't stomach seeing people laying wreaths who have played a major role in replenishing the stock of maimed and crippled ex-soldiers (and so many more civilians, so many, many more) for years and years to come.
posted by reynir at 2:37 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]



Regardless of American involvement, maybe not. It's a fair question about what would have happened if the USSR hadn't had the 15000 planes, 7000 tanks, 50000 jeeps, and 375000 trucks the US sent them. Especially the 375000 trucks.


Without a doubt. I probably wouldn't have been born if Allied food aid hadn't reached Leningrad during the siege.
posted by nasreddin at 2:52 PM on November 11, 2007


I don't know if Pound, a fascist traitor who manged to sit out WW1 and spent WW2 propagandizing for Mussolini, is my idea of a Veterans' Day poet.

Larkin wasn't far behind in that regard, either.


If we're talking Philip Larkin (born 1922), he was exempt from service in WWII because of poor eyesight. He did, after leaving Oxford, apply for war work. He could get nothing other than firebrigade duty. Not much, perhaps, but not the sign of a shirker.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:55 PM on November 11, 2007


Survivors

No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're 'longing to go out again,' -
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,-
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

-- Siegfried Sasson, 1917
posted by LucretiusJones at 3:08 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


The bill for freedom? It's coming due.

Don't worry, we've figured out how to pay the price of freedom with freedom itself!

Also, the nationalism fellating in this thread is nauseating. Nobody who served after WWII had anything to do with "defending our freedom".
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:10 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't help but seeing the grim irony of seeing everywhere poppies in rememberance of our war dead, while we are busy once again shedding blood in foreign poppy fields.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:14 PM on November 11, 2007


.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:32 PM on November 11, 2007


Sorley MacLean served in North Africa in WWII, where he was wound three times. This is his own translation of his poem in Gaelic, "Glac 'a Bhàis.":

Death Valley

Some Nazi or other has said that the Fuehrer had restored to German manhood the 'right and joy of dying in battle'.


Sitting dead in 'Death Valley'
below the Ruweisat Ridge
a boy with his forelock down about his cheek
and his face slate-grey;

I thought of the right and joy
that he got from his Fuehrer,
of falling in the field of slaughter
to rise no more;

of the pomp and the fame
that he had, not alone,
though he was the most piteous to see
in a valley gone to seed

with flies about grey corpses
on a dun sand
dirty yellow and full of the rubbish
and fragments of battle.

Was the boy of the band
who abused the Jews
and Communists, or of the greater
band of those

led, from the beginning of generations,
unwillingly to the trial
and mad delirium of every war
for the sake of rulers?

Whatever his desire or mishap,
his innocence or malignity,
he showed no pleasure in his death
below the Ruweisat Ridge.
posted by Abiezer at 3:35 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


the substantial redeployments of the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe before the 1944 invasion also lightened the load for the Soviet advance

The Allies' D-Day force was 39 divisions. Germany had 58 divisions in France, Belgium and Holland, and 239 divisions on the Eastern Front. (The Afrika Korps had two German divisions and eight Italian divisions. The Germans had 25 divisions in Italy after the Allies invaded in September 1943.)
posted by kirkaracha at 3:46 PM on November 11, 2007


I think sacrifice still applies, even if you were conscripted. You're giving up your life for something perceived to be of higher value -- even if it's not you who thinks that goal is of higher value. I'm from Canada, where WWII conscription didn't start till 1944. But both my grandfathers, in my opinion, were part of a poverty draft. And that poverty, combined with the naivety of youth and the propaganda of government, were made clear to me by my parents.
posted by acoutu at 4:02 PM on November 11, 2007


Joseph Persico's Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour recounts the last day of World War I. The Armistice was signed at 5:00 a.m., but didn't take effect until 11:00. In the meantime, the commanders continued to order attacks until the last minute, and more than 13,000 men died, more than were killed on D-Day.

NewsHour interview, NPR interview, Amazon Unbox preview of a History Channel documentary based on the book.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:02 PM on November 11, 2007


I remember the soldiers on Remembrance Sunday, not the generals or the political manoeuvres.

Of course, in terms of 'what were they fighting for', today is Independence Day for Poland, and for a few other countries as well.
posted by athenian at 4:04 PM on November 11, 2007


Germany had 58 divisions in France, Belgium and Holland, and 239 divisions on the Eastern Front.

239 << (239 + 58).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:31 PM on November 11, 2007


For anyone interested in an actual 11/11 thread instead of this bullshit, the best I ever see are generally those over at the Nielsen Hayden's "Making Light".

Here is this years.
posted by Justinian at 8:56 PM on November 11, 2007


As a Canadian, Remembrance Day is perhaps the only *sacred* day of the year for me, but I have stopped attending the ceremonies at the Cenotaph - it's too martial. The cub scouts wear their uniforms, which I find depressing.

I would like to think Canadians are helping out in Afghanistan, but we don't really know the true cost of the war there. The reporting on Afghanistan is a joke. It's better to be safe than sorry. Bring the troops home.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2007


I think sacrifice still applies, even if you were conscripted. You're giving up your life for something perceived to be of higher value -- even if it's not you who thinks that goal is of higher value.

Is that sacrifice or victimisation?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:09 AM on November 12, 2007


When you start accepting that sacrifice is a good thing and the death of people forced into a conflict (e.g. conscripted soldiers) is acceptable within the concept of a higher purpose, then you've basically moved your morality into an area which says suicide bombers are acceptable.

I find this very hard to accept.
posted by seanyboy at 4:33 AM on November 12, 2007


If we're talking Philip Larkin (born 1922), he was exempt from service in WWII because of poor eyesight. He did, after leaving Oxford, apply for war work. He could get nothing other than firebrigade duty. Not much, perhaps, but not the sign of a shirker.

If we're comparing him to the obvious about Pound, then it's about his political views, not his service record.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:45 AM on November 12, 2007


Anti-war vets banned from Long Beach Veteran's Day parade
posted by homunculus at 10:23 AM on November 12, 2007


3.2.3. - I, at least, was comparing the issue raised in the initial comment about ""Pound, a fascist traitor who manged to sit out WW1 and spent WW2 propagandizing for Mussolini", followed by the observation of Larkin not being "far behind in that regard, either."

Which regard was unspecified, leaving me free to choose war record rather than politics, which latter were, unlike Pound's, pretty much private (albeit weird and bitter) and Lord knows never traitorous.

As to poetry, I leave it to the devout. Lot of Pound fanatics out there on Mefi.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:17 PM on November 28, 2007


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