Buckles Under

Okay, now that Jack Babcock and Frank Buckles, the sole Canadian and American “veterans” of the “Great War” (you know, the one that was supposed to end all wars) have finally passed away this month at the ripe old ages of 109 and 110, respectively, can we please for goodness sake, stop commemorating and romantically glorifying the gruesome loss of life that was made in WWI?

By any objective measure, that horrible war was one of the most monumentally futile, stupendously asinine conflicts in all of recorded human history and we should stop pretending that it was undertaken on the elevated moral auspices of “freedom” and “democracy” or whatever other platitudinous bullshit routinely gets inserted into Remembrance Day observances.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that all the “last survivors” of these ancient conflicts end up having been under-age volunteers, desperately eager to escape the insufferably monotonous lives that would otherwise awaited them on the farm and instead compelled them to enlist in the Army… Perhaps to make themselves feel “alive” somehow; ostensibly in pursuit of the same silly notions that we now solemnly venerate as irrefutably noble sentiments.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Buckles Under

  1. billg

    You want a stop to commemorating the loss of lives in WW1 because some of the men who went just wanted to leave the farm? Why does why they went matter?
    I dont want to know why a person drags another person out of a burning building or from a car crash because, why does it matter? Its not why your there..its what you do and how you behave once your there that matters.
    I cant even begin to imagine the lifetime of pain and suffering in WW1 Vets and now that there all dead you’d like to stop commemorating what they went through because you believe they went for all the wrong reasons? You take a miserable pill today?

  2. TofKW

    …can we please for goodness sake, stop commemorating and romantically glorifying the gruesome loss of life that was made in WWI?

    Those are two separate questions. Can we stop commemorating? Short answer is no. I concur with billg that regardless of the individual reasons why anyone chose to enlist, they did so with the knowledge they could die. Also you are forgetting the thousands of soldiers we sent under conscription. The most poignant aspect when comparing the military to any other vocation is, that when asked, a soldier will lay down their life for their nation. We should never forget that part, regardless of whether a particular conflict was a just war, because when it comes right down to it almost all wars ever fought were unjust and colossal wastes of life.

    Can we stop romantically glorifying the gruesome loss of life that was made in WWI? I’d like to know who still does? By its sheer scale, this was by far the most monumentally stupid war ever fought in human history. To fight for Queen and country? The friggin’ Kaiser was Queen Victoria’s first grandson, and the two nation’s royalties were intertwined to the point that the UK and Germany could have been allies had pacts been signed earlier. Think about it, Britain could have been fighting France; that was the tradition for the 500 years prior to WWI.

    This was also the first war were civilian installations were targeted as legitimate military targets, as well as to demoralize your opponent (its been proven over and over it serves the opposite effect). But I guess Europe had not shed enough blood, and was not scorched to the point that it shook the foundations of society, for they decided on a re-match just 20 years later. At least that one finally showed them the cold, hard realities of war; in case anyone was still lured by Hemmingway’s overly-romantic prose from his time covering the Spanish Civil War.

    But unfortunately even WWII doesn’t seem to be enough, as European states are still quite happy to send their soldiers half-way around the world to hellholes were no western army has even been successful – from times dating back to Alexander the Great. Oh well, as long as the bombs aren’t dropping in their continent they’re happy to placate the US.

    As for why we’re still sending our soldiers there, I haven’t got a fucking clue anymore. The reasons keep changing. But I do know those that fought in Afghanistan must be commemorated just the same. But I hold no delusions that it is equally as stupid a conflict as WWI, only on a much smaller scale. And I know we’re spitting on the graves of those who fought in WWI and WWII, who fought thinking they were laying down their lives so no more Canadians would have to die overseas for their country. That is the part people should remember every November 11th, in case they get overly romantic about war.

  3. Bill: You want a stop to commemorating the loss of lives in WW1 because some of the men who went just wanted to leave the farm? Why does why they went matter?

    That’s not the reason I think we should stop commemorating WWI or remembering those who fought and died in the trenches, etc. But I think we should retire the patently false notion that soldiers enlist for noble reasons and that they were fighting to “protect our freedoms” or “defend our liberties” and other such nonsense that gets trotted out with tiresome predictability every November 11th. Even with the current conflict in Afghanistan – a pointless, futile venture if ever there was one – is routinely tarted up with these lofty aims. It’s complete rubbish. Young men (and now women) enlist for many different reasons, but “protecting our freedoms” isn’t usually one of them. Usually, it’s to avoid boredom, because they like guns and shooting or blowing up things (seriously – I knew some guys in school who signed up for that exact reason), or these days in volunteer armies, to seek educational or career opportunities that may not otherwise be available to them.

    I cant even begin to imagine the lifetime of pain and suffering in WW1 Vets and now that there all dead you’d like to stop commemorating what they went through because you believe they went for all the wrong reasons?

    Both my grandfathers fought in WWI and they were, I guess, amongst the fortunate ones, in as much as they survived. But they were quite damaged by the experience, suffered chronic health problems for the remainder of their lives (poison gas attacks will do that) and died prematurely long before I was born.

    I guess my bottom line on this whole thing is that we should drop the romantic pretence surrounding war; i.e., that it’s filled with nobility, valour, bravery, courage, etc. (which it can be on an individual level at extremely rare moments) that we need to deeply honour and respect, and instead accept the wise judgement of General Sherman, who famously delivered the last word on the subject when he declared that “war is hell.”

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