Saturday, January 29, 2011

For Peace

Last night we finished the three-part HBO film on John Adams. Props to Paul Giamatti for his portrayal of Adams, which is more mealy-mouthed and complex than the grandstanding version of "1776." The Founding Fathers are making another appearance in contemporary politics, and it seems timely to thank John Adams for his willingness to be a one-term president in exchange for brokering peace with France. While I'm not in favor of avoiding war at any cost, I believe the price of war is worth almost no reason. Today in Writer's Almanac, I was heartened to read William McKinley's words: "Let us ever remember that our interest is in concord, not in conflict; and that our real eminence rests in the victories of peace, not those of war."
It made me go searching for this poem of William Stafford.

At the Un-National Monument along the Canadian Border

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed - or were killed - on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate by forgetting its name.

The strange thing is, after war, after all the horror - fear, death, destruction, the sound and smoke, dead kids and fathers, schools, farms, houses all rubble - some soliders limp home, others stay, the burns scar, the nightmares and suicides calm down, and after a generation, our governments are trading partners. Why aren't we all yelling, there is no other way to get to the future?

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