Wednesday, October 1, 2014

War: An Update

I saw an article at the NY Review of Books Blog about whether or not war is coming.  The piece is called "Birds of War" by Christopher Benfey.

He got me thinking.

It seems to me it's an odd question because there is always war coming.  

I was born in 1948 in a UN camp for refugees of WWII.  I came to the US in 1951.  The first job my mom got was working in a factory making walkie-talkies for the GIs fighting in Korea.  From 1963 to 1975, my father and I argued about the war in Vietnam.  

After I started teaching American Lit in 1980, I had students who were veterans of the little wars we fought in Panama and Grenada and Colombia and Iraq.  In 2001, I advised students who were being called up to fight in the war against terror.  

I'm retired from teaching now, but still teach a war stories class online for my old university.
About half the students are veterans of the wars we've been fighting since 2001.  

I expect their daughters and sons will see as much war as I've seen.

Here’s a poem I wrote about it years ago—right after the start of the second Iraq War:

The War Poets

They’re all alike

They tell you
about the bodies
like bundles of rags

the splintered trees

the blood so red
no words can nail it down

You hear it
in Stephen Crane
in Hemingway
in Thucidyes

Remember the butterfly
in All’s Quiet
on the Western Front?

Sure you do

Vonnegut’s soldier
in Slaughterhouse-5
asking “Why me?”

Yeah, that too

You’ve heard it
all before

Every word

And you’ll hear it again
or your son will
or your daughter will


The poem originally appeared in the journal Two Review


Maureen said...

I read Benfey's article yesterday, too.

One of the things I've remarked on is that in my lifetime there has always been some place where civil war, insurrection, civil strife, or the like is going on. It is to me one of the saddest facts about humans: that we cannot co-exist. And as an article in one of today's paper pointed out, we've even managed to kill off a substantial number of animals for our own selfish purposes.

My greatest dream is that my son at some point in the future know a world truly at peace in all ways.

John Guzlowski said...

What I don't understand is this presence of war and simultaneously the belief that violence is on the down swing expressed by people like Steven Pinker.

Here's a video of him talking about the "myth" of contemporary violence.