Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.
--Grass, Carl Sandburg
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields
--In Flanders Fields, John McCrae
Put the story together. Understand the story.
Ask questions of the story; make it answer you.
--Packing Inferno, Tyler Boudreau
A couple of years ago while driving the back roads of Vermont we stumbled upon this roadside memorial to the U.S. war dead in the Iraq part of the war on terror.
Was it merely a committed and reverential gesture? Was there the subtext of protest? It is hard to know as it was merely a field of crosses, with a simple scoreboard tallying the number.
The field on that remote road makes us wonder why there are not more protests against these wars. Why does our society accept the deaths of so many good people in questionable efforts without so much as a peep?
Since there was no suggestion that this was protest, the field of fluttering small white sheets was certainly an effort, but it seems disconnected from the reality. They suggest that the sacrifice of the people whom the tidy white pennants represent was acceptable -- a necessary expedient for the good of man. But we cannot accept this proposition as the war dead did not achieve any greater good.
How can a society willing to sacrifice its young for dreamlike fantasies prosper? Of course, that is the ultimate significance of the cross, and as a society we have ingested the goodness of the sacrificial lamb.
It is Ranger's unchristian belief that death is not to be celebrated; it is much too final.
[For mike. We will be addressing sacrifice and myth-making next week.]