November 11th is a national holiday in all the major countries of Europe for a very good world: it is the day the Great War ended.
And, for Europe, it was devastating. For us, it wasn't.
I have thought for awhile now that any newly elected leader in a major county need to visit the ossuary at Verdun.
There are the remains of over 130,000 Germans and French unknowns who died at this place that both called hell. It is monument to the stupidity of war.
And, I would hope that any major leader who goes there would then have to reflect on what it means to go to war.
This leads to the Wilfred Owen poem that should be required reading by everyone today.
Here is Sir Kenneth Brannagh reading Dolce et Decorum est.
Dulce Et Decorum EstI understand sometimes war is inevitable. However, it must truly the last resort and must never be unprovoked.
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.
Of course, we need to remember who gave their last full measure of devotion, but I know enough of history that many have died unnecessarily and in vain.
I wish it would be possible to think we have fought the final war to end all wars, but we haven't. We must never forget the Old Lie.