Saturday, October 23, 2004

Why "patriot acts" matter

To return to the lists, selective or not as they may be, of the military service records of politicians: I think some of the commentators over at Eric's site are missing the point. It's not to say that those who have served are more "patriotic" than those who have not. It's about integrity and the willingness to risk your own life--or not--when you are asking others to risk their lives for your sake. It's pretty much that simple.

John McCain's implicit comparison to World War I seems apt.

That war did not give rise to some of the greatest anti-war poetry of all time without reason. It's not much remembered now that some of that poetry was written by Carl Sandburg. In a later war and a later time he became mainstream America's darling, but there was another Carl Sandburg who wrote poetry like this:

Across their tables they fixed it up,
Behind their doors away from the mob.
And the guns did a job that nicked off millions.
The guns blew seven million off the map.
The guns sent seven million west.
Seven million shoving up the daisies.
Across their tables they fixed it up,
The liars who lie to nations.

--"The Liars," Smoke and Steel (1920).

An early version of this poem contained as an epigraph a comment from a speech by Woodrow Wilson: "The forces of the world do not threaten; they operate. The great tides do not give notice that they are going to rise and run. They rise in their majesty and those who stand in their way are overwhelmed."

No comments: