Re-upping a thing I wrote after finishing To End All Wars last summer. Seems an apt thing to share on Memorial Day weekend….
To me it’s amazing that any of the generals and leaders of The War To End All Wars–one hundred years old today!–had statues built in their honor. The elites of western civilization, whose slight brainpower kindled by their limitless arrogance erupted into the conflagration that came to be known as the “great” war. A war so great that two decades later they did it all again.
During a visit with my aged father not long before he died, I found myself thumbing through a volume of my family’s genealogy I didn’t know existed. I came upon an entry for a distant relation whose family had immigrated from what is now Germany in the mid-nineteenth century. He lived his entire life on a farm not far from the Mississippi River in a gorgeous corner of Iowa. When the United States entered the First World War, my distant relation left the farm and went back to Europe, where he lasted a few months. What happened? He died. How? Blown to bits by a shell? Forced at gunpoint to go over the top and mowed down? The record does not say. Just birth date and place, where he grew up, and when and where he died.
Here is Wendell Berry reading “Making It Home” from That Distant Land: The Collected Stories. It makes me think of my own distant relation.
Reading or listening to Berry read this story is something I plan to do every year on Memorial Day.
By luck, one of the sample pages on amazon.com happens to contain some of the most powerful writing.
“They talk about victory as if they know all them dead boys was glad to die. The dead boys ain’t never been asked how glad they was. If they had it to do again, might be they wouldn’t do it, or might be they would. But they ain’t been asked.”