War is Hell


This morning, I enjoyed a cup of strong coffee and woke late. It’s raining pretty hard out there and Daniel has cajoled me to drive him to the Metro station so he can catch the bus to class. He will need an umbrella; and will need to walk home.

I am listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, about Lincoln and the folks who, although they contested his leadership, the president effectively managed so they would become a cohesive team of leaders during the tumultuous period of the civil war. This is followed hot on the heels of my finishing Ken Burns’s documentary The War.

The sheer number of people who died is astonishing. Around 750,000 Americans died in the Civil War. 450,000 died in WW2. I live not even e0 miles from Manassas (Bull Run). A little closer to my childhood home–the Rogue River Indian War (from 1851-1856) had more casualties than any other military event between the Mexican American War and the Civil War. Almost 500 soldiers and militia died or were wounded in the rugged terrain of southern Oregon. Thousands of Native Americans were force marched 33 days to the reservation at Siletz.

I never served in the military, but I know and respect many who have. A few of my Facebook friends are still active military. Many relatives have served. Some never left. Some folks I know went to war, came home, but their mind is still there. They try to cover it with drink or drugs, but the horrors they saw never really left them.

Both my maternal and paternal grandparents survived. I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t come home. My great grandfather flew planes in WWI. My dad was horribly wounded in Vietnam.

It’s a harrowing, horrible thing, war. Maybe it’s a grim necessity? I don’t know. The craft of warfare, though is abominable to me, especially when civilians are targeted. Carpet bombing, land mines, the Bomb (you know which one) have colored my mind over the years, and my opinions on the subject continue vacillate.Allied forces firebombed the city of Dresden in 1945, killing around 150,000 people.

Is it good? is it bad? I think the only thing I can agree upon is the famous quote by civil war general William Tecumseh Sherman: “It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

Indeed it is. And please god, may it stop visiting us generation upon generation.

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