Maybe i shouldn’t be butting into this thread. i’m not American, but English. But then, we do have own Remembrance Day for the fallen, and I should think you know that we certainly have numerous fallen to remember .
I think the British attitude , in general, is a lot like @Maureeenie 's atttitude. Must thank you, Maureenie for that very moving post. We have every respect for, and every sympathy the fallen, but very little respect for the politicians, the generals and gung-ho Patriotism. We don’t buy the idea that all those people “bravely laid down their lives for their country” . Some did. Others were too young, too naive, too blinded by the glamour of War to imagine what they were signing up for. And many, of course, were drafted.
I’ve also heard American vets say that they joined the armed forces just because they couldn’t get a civvie job, and it was better than being out-of-work. I can sympathise with that. Some turn to crime in that situation, some turn to begging, some turn to “scrounging” off the State…if you can choose to be a hero instead, that must be very tempting. Even if - as those people told me, they didn’t really believe in the cause. It was all about survival, really, from the word “Go”
And I’ve heard it said by veterans - on both sides of the Atlantic- that they were not brave at all; the conscientious objectors were the really brave ones. They just didn’t have the courage to take that stance, and face the kind of punishment meted out to the “cowards” (And nobody said that better that the American poet, e.e. cummings in his poem “[i sing of olaf glad and big”](https://poets.org/poem/i-sing-olaf-glad-and-big . Its worth noting, here, by the way, that cummings, himself, served as an ambulance driver)
But in any case, they should certainly all be honoured, and remembered , just as we honour and remember all the victims of great tragedies. And, for my part, I think we honour them more truly, if we stop to recall that these were ordinary people, no different from ourselves, not comic-book heroes. Ordinary humans enduring horrors, and often acting with amazing heroism, but often , all-too-often . coming home broken in body or spririt, or not coming home at all. I also think it very right and fitting that we remember and honour all those who were shot dead for “cowardice” when suffering shellshock (or PTSD as we now call it)
And I know that’s far from being your intention @SthrnMixer , and I( do very much sympathise with many of the sentiments expressed, but I feel that it diminishes that sacrifice if we wave flags and speak of
…as if that’s what war is all about… As if that was what motivated all those people. I feel it’s more respectful to try to see them as they are, every bit as human as ourselves. And to care about them and mourn them nonetheless.
Finally I’d like to quote a poem that probably everybody knows already. it’s our most famous famous war poem (probably) from our most famous war poet, Wilfred Owen, who served in WW1:
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 .
(translation: it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.
here’sthe link to the full poem )
I think we Brits got a bit of a head start on the Americans in recognising the horror of war. I don’t think we ever quite recovered from the after-effects of the two Great Wars. and i don;t just mean that, like most of my generation, i grew up playing in the bombed-out shells of old houses, and listening to stories of the uncles who never came back, the hushed rumours of the cousin who did come back (and lived out the rest of his life in a lunatic asylum) and all that. I mean, it’s all had a profound and enduring effect on our nation’s pyche. One affect it’s had is that , whilst we do honour the fallen , wholeheartedly, we’re not near so ready to buy the patriotic hoo-ha and to cheer on soldiers as they march to war. ( That has nothing to do with “political correctness”)
well, thanks for listening. and I sincerely hope i haven’t offended anybody.