Lies 28 June 1914 and Today 

(published Circleville Herald 28 June)

 

“1914” reads concrete property markers along my backyard’s treeline. My grandfather Hiram was a child laborer in 1914. A hundred years ago, so far away. Before the guns stopped 11 November 1918 Hiram was enroute to be fed to them. His troop ship never left for the Meuse-Argonne, else I may not write today. Writers Erich Maria Remarque, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, artist Otto Dix tell us first-hand of what was arguably the most gruesome warfare ever. 1 July 1916 60,000 British troops were killed or injured in hours. Their bodies rotted in no man’s land between the trenches on the Somme.

 

We have lost the original meaning of Armistice Day. When the guns stopped 11 AM that November morning troops in the trenches said the sudden silence was the voice of God. 9 million had died, so many never found. They were vaporized by high explosive shells, or sunk in the mud of Ypres or Verdun. For many years, peoples of all nations gathered together in silence while the church bells tolled at 11 AM every 11 November. We have lost that silent and sacred meaning of Armistice Day.

 

Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand 28 June 1914. Why the greatest mechanized slaughter ever seen resulted the historians still debate. Many agree it resulted from lies. The lies of arrogant national pride, of imperialism, the lies of chip-on-the-shoulder honor. Lies that God was on our side, that the other side was subhuman, lies that it would be over by Christmas. Certainly the munitions makers got rich.

 

British Poet / Lt. Wilfred Owen was killed in the last week of the war. “Dulce et Decorum Est” (Pro Patria Mori) is the title of his poem below meaning “Grand and glorious it is “(to die for your country.) The troops are exhausted marching to the rear from the front lines:

 

Dulce et Decorum Est

 

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 tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

 

Gas! GAS! Quick boys—an ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone was still yelling out and stumbling,

And flound’ring 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 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.

 

Wilfred Owen speaks truth today, though he was killed 4 November 1918. Pfc. Bradley Manning spoke truth also-showing us video of US helicopter gunships killing civilians Baghdad 2007. The crew is laughing about killing “dead b-----ds”.

 

Pfc. Manning is imprisoned for the truth. War criminal, draft dodger and liar Dick Cheney, his company Halliburton stuffed with war profits, this very day still fills our screens and newspapers with the same lies as June,-July 1914. A hundred years ago, the same today. We can stop it. Let’s listen in silence, in prayer, as people over the world used to gather while  the bells tolled on Armistice Day.

 

-- Brad Cotton