… Saying Goodbye to Sam. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Combat, he knew, creates an unbridgeable gulf between those who have been to war and those at home who spout wartime slogans and believe in national virtues that the battlefield has exposed as lies.
“War turns landscape into anti-landscape, and everything in that landscape into grotesque, broken, useless rubbish—including human limbs,” he wrote in “The Soldiers’ Tale,” a book I read while covering the war in Bosnia.
I have never been in combat or near a battlefield. That is something I am very grateful for. The U.S. entered WWII a couple of months after I was born. As I moved into toddlerhood and beyond, I came to know which of the trains we could see passing just across the street were troop trains. I remember the men who returned that the grownups said had been shell shocked. Later, I got to know men who had been in battle. A friend of my brother's had flown gliders behind enemy lines — and somehow lived to tell about it. One of my best friends — obviously older than I — had flown 25 bombing missions. It wasn't easy to get them to talk about it, but when they finally did, it was a pretty horrific tale they told. Those wartime slogans may be lies (more like grotesque fantasies, it seems to me), but the pacifist slogans are not much better. War is a major piece of evidence in support of the original sin hypothesis.