Today is one of those days where I’ve got about five things I could write about so I asked Heather for her input on today’s topic. She produced a list of questions and this was on the top of the list:
“What is it about the history of wars that interests you?”
For those who don’t know, yes I have a great interest in history of war, warfare and how those events changed and shaped our world. I often read history books, watch TV documentaries, have talked to veterans, go out of my way to visit a museum or war memorial. With the advent of the internet I even follow a blog or two like Pacific Paratrooper. In addition to the history of war, I also am very interested in works of fiction about wars. I’ve seen most films on WWII and read lots of novels on the subject.
There isn’t a short answer to why I am interested to the extent I am. There are times I find it odd that I am interested at all. I’ve never served in the armed forces, only two members of my immediate family have served and in general I find war to be evil and engaging in it, to be against my basic religious and spiritual beliefs.
Given a choice, I opt for the path of peace and am not a violent man. When I worked in security, I generally talked my way out of difficult encounters – even when I would have been justified in using force.
Still there is something about the history of conflict that draws my attention. If I were to give a top reason, it would be something my father told me when I was in school, “If we don’t know our history, we’re doomed to repeat it.” This was father paraphrasing Winston Churchill who said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Part of me wishes to understand how we got into and out of war so that we can stop repeating the mistake of war and learn to live in peace. Perhaps idealistic, but it is a hope of mine. Even though I hope for peace, I understand the reality of the world and know that sometimes the only way to combat certain evils. or aggression, is with the force of arms.
Wars over the centuries have shaped our world in many ways. National boarders, government systems, who is in power, who is in prison, customs and even our technology have been influenced by wars. There is a connectedness in our world where one event leads to another and another. In the flow of events, war is among the most powerful and extraordinary events we face. The act of war releases a human energy as powerful as any natural disaster. The effects – death, destruction, injury, displacement and all the horrors of war forever change those who have faced the aggression.
While the macro picture and movement of war – the shaping of peoples, nations and government is interesting to me, it is the micro side of war that interests me the most. That is, how are individuals affected? Does the war break them? Or do the extraordinary circumstances of the battlefield cause the frightened solider to rise above his fears and become capable of extraordinary feats of bravery or kindness.
What is it about a war that takes a young frightened boy to become a hero?
What is it about the long days of fear and battle that break some – forever robbing them of happiness or the ability to cope with life?
What is about war being forced on people (like me) that drive them to forget their peaceful ways, pick up a weapon and fire in anger at the enemy?
It is those personal questions that interest me and cause me to turn my mind from time to time to the question, “What would I have done in their place?”
Till next week,