Memorial Day

Besides writing, I teach High School Social Science. One of the courses I teach is Modern World History, or the history of the world beginning around the time of the industrial revolution. I love the course and I love teaching. The course covers many wars and conflicts including the two world wars. War is destruction.

War has always been a part of human existence. Perhaps it always will be. Few things are more devastating and destructive. It still saddens me to teach: French Revolution, Russian Revolution, Taiping Rebellion, Boxer Rebellion, Sepoy Mutiny, Armenian Genocide, The Great War, World War Two the Holocaust Korea, Vietnam and others. Tens of millions of lives have been destroyed as a function of war and conflicts. The effects didn’t end with just the loss of that person but the damage spread to those who called them family and friend and those in their community. War is destruction.

By the way, I joined the Army immediately out of high school. I served five years. I served honorably. I loved my time in service and I performed well. I love my country. I love and respect other countries. I hate war. Even small wars. War is destruction.

Herman Goering is a Nazi war criminal tried at Nuremberg. He was asked about war. His answer is possibly the more insightful and honest a man who drove the engines of war ever gave:

Goering: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Goering: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are going attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

It’s a sad truth. Human institutions cannot be better than those who create them. War is the mirror that exposes how awful we can be. War is destruction.

So on this day,  a day to remember those who we lost as a result of war, I salute you who were lost and I drink a drink to remember you. Your loss is not in vain as long as those of us still alive remember your sacrifice. I wish you were here with us now to enjoy the bittersweet taste of memory. Cheers to the fallen, may your memory endure forever.

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