ANTHEMS (Part 4 of 4)

Continued from New York London Paris Munich


A conclusion to this somewhat forced ramble might better belong somewhere else than here, but there is no political blog as such (or at least not a permanent one) here and I don’t have my own blog for various reasons. But if there is something to be said about my visitation through interpretations and histories and tributes and more to the dead of WWI, it’s that, perhaps obviously (perhaps selfishly?) I found myself also wondering about the current war and how the future might remember what occurs, and who dies.

Not that there is a guarantee they will, not entirely. To give you an example, the Spanish-American War is known in the history books and gets taught as part of American history as such, but the lengthy occupation of the Philippines and the passionate arguments in the US about the appropriateness of such imperial conquest, and its meaning and the goals behind such an action — all have their haunting if not exact similarities to what is happening now, and the result certainly involved death and destruction for both Filipinos and Americans. It’s a conflict that didn’t involve a huge swathe of the population, it was not an organized ‘war’ effort as such at home, it was far away and other things were going on, and in American terms — not Filipino, I’d venture to guess — it’s not known and remarked on much in public discourse or awareness, it’s not a crucial or specific event, it’s not the Civil War or the World Wars, though it did have its important place in terms of America’s conceptions of itself and what it could and should be doing.

What happens in Iraq next is not within the realm of confident prediction. I have my thoughts and others have theirs and so forth, but anyone saying exactly what will happen is lying. We all uncomfortably wait to see the result. And eventually some will choose to reflect on those results with their own histories, their own artworks, their own fictional narratives, their own movies (if Three Kings was the only major American Gulf War movie as such, at least so far, the length of time and the nature of the conflict now suggests that there will be more about this period of time shown in future years…but again, who can truly predict?).

But the dead remain the dead, and that obvious truism still lays bare up the uncomfortable fact. Over a thousand of my fellow citizens are dead now, thousands more Iraqis are as well. As yet, the numbers will continue to increase. Will there be a scarring of the national psyche over this fact in the future? Will there be another black slash in the National Mall to match the Vietnam memorial? Will it have as many names?

Though these are going to be the debates of our time, of our place. As for what I was watching and reading and listening to recently? All Quiet on the Western Front was filmed just over ten years after WWI ended, but everything else I discussed is of a much more recent time, no earlier than the mid-eighties. The imaginative and intellectual (and combined) power of reflection on the horror there lingers strongly and can still produce eloquence and commentary, at the very least good intentions perhaps. Some attempt remains to acknowledge the loss, somehow, a loss part of humanity’s endlessly bloody history.

That which seems important to us now may be just as forgotten in the future as the American and Filipino dead of a hundred years ago are now. All that was lost and all the losses borne by those left behind may not yet receive more than the barest of mentions here and there, the occasional small study and invocation. There may never be “A Life (1984-2004).”

What this means? I cannot say. It gives me no comfort. It solves nothing. It just is, as humanity and history and time progresses, as the wheel grinds on and some stop to consider what has been left behind.