anghara (anghara) wrote,

Memory, and the uses and responsibilities thereof

I will finish this last chapter today, or tomorrow at the latest, I SWEAR I will, but before I go back to that, here's your daily cogitation.

In the newsgroup I call home, someone posted a short-short recently which relied on aliens thinking that humans "aren't a warrior species", because the names of their ships were the names of geographical entities - cities, valleys, fields.

And then he reveals the names of those ships.

Antietam. Tobruk. Megiddo. Kursk. Dien Bien Phu. Isandhlwana.

There was a huge range of responses in the group. Several people just went, "Huh?" One person thought the list was "Americentric", which was a little flabbergasting seeing as only one of those names had anything at all to do with America. I myself was shaky on Megiddo, but the rest I knew - all battles, all PLACES of battles, all places where the earth was soaked in human blood. Other things popped up in the group - someone suggested an alternative list (which ran something along the lines of "Antietam, Pearl Harbor, Omaha Beach" and stuff along those lines - as though America was the only nation that had ever gone to war (but, oddly enough, left out Gettysburg). But then people started suggesting other names that might be better "triggers" - stuff like Waterloo. Agincourt. Stalingrad. Someone even threw in Hiroshima (and my response to that was, "that wasn't a battle, it was an atrocity", for what it's worth). The World War I killing fields of the Somme, Passchendaele, Gallipoli. Older battles like Cannae, Thermopylae, Hattin.

I thought about Masada. I thought about Culloden.

I could add more.

There are names in that list whose details I don't know - but I know that they were battles, and I know that they have the Angel of Death brooding upon them. I don't know what the fact that there are actual people out there who don't even know that much actually makes me feel like. Am I one of the rare ones who carry the memory of my kind, and the rest then feel free to forget? Should history be remembered at all?

"Modern" warfare is a sickening thing. In order to protect your actual, you know, soldiers - civillian collateral damage has been accepted as inevitable - before, if two nations had the idiocy and the stubbornness to go to war, at least they took two armies and pitted them against one another on the field of battle. If carnage ensued it was warrior against warrior. Now... now it's enought to throw bombs from thousands of feet up in the air. If they fall onto a school or a marketplace or a hospital or a church, well, oops. Collateral damage, you know. We were aiming for those pesky insurgents on the ground.

War is not just. A defensive war might be necessary, but it's still an atrocity against humanity. Offensive war is just...well... the word will do for double use. It's offensive. It's an offence against decency and honour and morality. I suppose that World War II could be, in certain aspects of it, be classified as "justifiable" - but even there things were done - and by BOTH sides, dammit! Dresden was an abomination! - that defy belief that human beings were involved. But it's WWI that always gets me by the throat. A thoroughly useless war fought for no real purpose at all unless it was as a wargame for ageing generals who sat in safety behind the trenches and moved their little "pieces" on the "board" - and a generation of children paid the price for that.

Perhaps the reason we keep blundering into one war after another is that enough people don't recognise the names of Kursk, Antietam, Dien Bien Phu... and recoil from them.

That is the responsibility of memory. If you remember war, you will treasure peace.

Please, for God's sake, treasure peace.

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