Monday, February 22, 2010

War, Oh So Lovely

It was kind of a nondescript call and, given no way to verify anything the caller said, not of any importance. Still, something a fan of Rush Limbaugh said today sparked a recollection of mine from high school (or was it junior high?) days. Apparently, I was taught by a fascist, communist, socialist, traitor or, worse yet, a community organizer.

CALLER: You're welcome. So I'm a college student in Pittsburgh. I have an oral communications class, and a kid in my class was reading a song lyric or a song quote or whatever you want to call it from a song, and it said: to die for your country is not honorable and to die for the red, white, and blue isn't a good way to die, it's not respected, and to those types of tones, and at the end of this presentation everyone clapped, excluding me, I did not clap. And I got reprimanded for not clapping for him.

RUSH: Okay. What did the student say again, go a little slower.

CALLER: He said to die for the Stars and Stripes is not honorable, and to die for our country is not respected.

RUSH: So a student made the statement, and everybody but you applauded?


RUSH: And then what happened?

CALLER: And then my teacher yelled at me, she said, "Why didn't you applaud, why didn't you applaud for him?" And I said it's disrespectful and I don't agree with it, and I think our country is a great place, and she said --

RUSH: Why did she think you had to applaud? Just to avoid hurting the guy's feelings or did she agree with this student?

CALLER: I think she agreed.

RUSH: Why do I even ask, of course she agreed, she's a professor at a university. Why would I even think otherwise?

CALLER: Because at the end of the presentation -- he was the last presentation -- and at the end she stood up and she goes, "Very good, very, very well, very well spoken."

RUSH: Okay. Did you suffer any more than a reprimand, or did it stop there?

CALLER: I'm not sure yet. I haven't gotten my grade yet.

RUSH: Wow. Well, you hang in there, Kathryn. This is worth the reprimand. You heard it from me. We hear these kinds of stories periodically, kids call from all over with the stories of what's happening inside these institutions of higher learning. Thanks much, Kathryn.

Obviously, we can't confirm that Rush's fan was reprimanded. Or whether it was because the instructor agreed with the student. Or if the instructor liked the content of the "song lyric or song quote or whatever." Or what college this occurred at. Or even if the incident occurred. But, given that the item allegedly had something to do with the idea that dying for one's country is not necessarily honorable, it brings to mind a poem written by a fellow who volunteered at the age of 20 or 21 to fight for his country, England. He was sent to France on 12/31/16, saw a lot of action, and wrote numerous poems about his horrifying experience.

This is usually considered an antiwar poem, though you'll have to decide for yourself whatever relevance it may hold for the United States, or any nation, circa 2010. But it clearly is relevant to the idea, apparently appalling to Rush Limbaugh and to his caller, that war is not a glamorous enterprise. So, after all this ado (and with an explanation of the Latin at the conclusion of the poem), here is....


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 still was 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 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.

8 October 1917 - March, 1918

DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

Wilfred Owen- patriot, hero, victim- was killed in action days before the armistice was declared in November, 2018.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The College was CCAC and the teacher was Mrs. Washington. She has a way with students that show that they are Republican or have respect for USA because I was also a student in her class and one of my class mates gave a speech that was more on the right wing view of American and she got a D even though the speech was flawless. Kathryn is very brave and not one to hide her respect for her country and some action shoul dbe taken on Mrs. Washington for treating her poorly for standing up in what she believes.

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