Aftermath: Veteran’s Day/Remembrance Day on the eve of the 100th anniversary of WWI

Sassoon2

It’s Veteran’s Day here in the United States, it’s Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom, and accordingly, that means it’s also Armistice Day marking the end of hostilities between Germany and the Allied forces during World War I — it’s a day for remembering the sacrifices of soldiers in eras past as well as the ugly sacrifices that all war necessarily entails.poppyUK

Carl von Clausewitz wrote in his classic tract On War that politics is war by other means, and one of the motivating elements of Suffragio comes from understanding how different countries use politics (in both democratic and non-democratic states) to solve policy problems and how a country’s unique culture, economics, language and history all play a role in understanding how countries solve problems.  What’s remarkable about the world today isn’t that so many of its countries are still engaged in bloody wars, but that so many regions and countries now use politics, and not war, to solve their differences.

Next July marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Austro-Hungarian archduke Franz Ferdinand, the singular event that set into motion a series of domino effects that launched Europe, and then much of the rest of the world, into the ‘war to end all wars.’  Siegfried Sassoon (pictured above), a British soldier who served on the Western Front in World War I and survived the slaughter to live to age 81, became the most well-known of several WWI-era poets who came to profound disillusion over the war.

As such, I can’t think of a more appropriate way to mark the day than with his poem, ‘Aftermath.’

Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same–and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads–those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

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