The preparation of the parish magazine calls to mind that in just under three weeks, we will again remember our dead. Particularly we remember the Irish dead, those written out of our history for so long, those who fell fighting for a British king in the Great War for civilization.
It is a melancholy task, the world is a no more safer place in 2007 than in 1907, soldiers still fight pointless wars. An army chaplain asked friends to ask the politicians when they would bring the soldiers home from Iraq. No-one knows anymore what they are fighting for. No-one believes that Iraq will suddenly be transformed into a western democracy. No-one can rule out the possibility that the final state of things will be worse than the first.
E.L. Doctorow’s brilliant novel from the American civil war “The March”, telling the story of the victorious advance of General Grant’s army, becomes very philosophical towards the end.
“Though this march is done, and well accomplished, I think of it now, God help me, with longing-not for its blood and death but for the bestowal of meaning to the very ground trod upon, how it made every field and swamp and river and road into something of moral consequence, whereas now, as the march dissolves so does the meaning, the army strewing itself into the isolated intentions of diffuse private life, and the terrain thereby left blank and also diffuse, and ineffable, a thing once again, and victoriously, without reason, and, whether diurnally lit and darkened, or sere or fruitful, or raging or calm, completely insensible and without any purpose of its own.
And why is Grant so solemn today upon our great achievement, except he knows this unmeaning inhuman planet will need our warring imprint to give it value, and that our civil war, the devastating manufacture of the bones of our sons, is but a war after a war, a war before a war”.
A war after a war, a war before a war – and so it goes down through history and around the world.