You’re fighting with a ghost

You’re fighting with a ghost November 12, 2018

• It was nice to see Kurt Vonnegut’s name trending on social media yesterday because it meant that lots of people were reading his lovely passage in Breakfast of Champions. In case you missed it, or just want to read it again, here it is:

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy … all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

Holidays show what we regard as holy, and thus encourage us to produce more of those things. “Armistice Day” encouraged us to create more armistices — more truces and treaties and other such opportunities for millions upon millions of human beings to stop butchering one another. Veterans’ Day encourages us to create more veterans and, therefore, fewer armistices.

I think perhaps a better way to honor veterans is to stop producing so damn many of them.

• See also Jim Wright. (I won’t paste an excerpt from that essay because it meanders, purposefully, to make several points all at once. So just read the whole thing.)

• And Eric Bogle via The Pogues:

• And Wislawa Szymborska:

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.
Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.
Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.
Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.
Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.
We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.
Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.
From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.
Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.
In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

• The title of this post comes from the new song from Philly’s “most dangerous band,Fang Fang. It’s maybe an appropriate song for today.

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