For some weeks my son Liam has been asking when I leave for the SIMtone office, “Please go too!” He had been to my office once or twice on errands, and we spent a few hours on a holiday monday afternoon with me on a call with some US workers who didn’t have that day off. He remembered eating shreddies and playing with his trains.
This morning I took Liam with me on the bus to the office, and he was used to do performance testing of our virtual desktop service: his favorite tools are www.thomasandfriends.com, and www.cbc.ca/kidscbc, which are both flash game sites.
Shortly after 10 my mother (Rona) and my wife (Meaghan) arrived at the office and we left by bus to go downtown for the 11am ceremony. I don’t think I’ve been there for some years, maybe 1992, or maybe not since I was in elementary school.
There was a lot of people, and despite some strategically placed TV monitors, we couldn’t see. And then Liam had to pee. And then we couldn’t find Meaghan and Rona. And then Liam talked through the 2 minutes of silence.
He’s only 3, but he seemed to understand that people died. (“that’s bad!”) And he concluded that war wasn’t a good thing. It was good to be there, even if we couldn’t see anything.
When I got home tonight, I caught up on my blog feeds, and came across Monbiot: http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/11/11/lest-we-forget/
But the First World War, which ended 90 years ago today, seemed incomprehensible. The class interests of the men sent to kill each other were the same. While Germany was clearly the aggressor, the outlook of the opposing powers - seeking to expand their colonies and to dominate European trade - was not wildly different. Ugly as the German state was, no one could characterise the war at its outbreak - with Tsarist Russia on the side of the Entente Powers - as a simple struggle between democracy and dictatorship.
George Monbiot is a bit older than me (8 years), so he has perhaps some minor first hand experiences of the Vietnam war that I (born in 1971) do not.
By the time I could understand what was what, the US was leaving Vietnam with it’s tail between it’s legs, and it was the high-inflation late 1970s, where towns as described by Springsteen’s Born in the USA were typical. America the great was a thing of the past. The USA’s reputation didn’t get better in the 1980s, nor the 1990s, and I do not need to speak of Dubya’s legacy. (Remember, I was involved in the crypto-(policy) wars of the 1990s, so I may view the US NSA, CIA, DoJ and executive branch with more cynicism than average)
It wasn’t until one winter when I received two books at the same time for Xmas: Thomas Reed’s At the Abyss (http://www.amazon.ca/At-Abyss-Insiders-History-Cold/dp/0891418377/ref=sr_11?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226445513&sr=8-1) and Michael Moore’s _Dude, Where’s my Country (http://www.amazon.ca/Dude-Wheres-Country-Michael-Moore/dp/0446532231/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226445524&sr=8-2)
that I completely understood my disconnect. Like Monbiot with World War I (which I think of being certainly being the War to End All Wars. He was the last time we had a war that was quite clearly just about me vs you. i.e. a gentleman’s war. It wasn’t about anything. It wasn’t idological, it was just about resources and money), I just couldn’t understand Vietnam: why did the Americans go there, why couldn’t they just leave, and why didn’t they understand where the war really was.
Thomas Reed’s book tells the glass-half-full version: it is amazing that we were smart enough not set off a nuclear war. The military knew what to do in Vietnam, but wasn’t allowed to do so by the politicians who were afraid of WWIII.
Yet, as far as I can tell, the military were given carte blanch in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the problem can’t be solved with soldiers.
Reading Thomas Reed and Michael Moore at the same time (I keep books in different rooms) was very much a difficult, but educationally experience. Thomas, the patriot born too early and too late to fight in any war gave me a glimpse of the America he knew: America the Great. Moore, a man of my generation, and a patriot, remembers just enough of that America to ask, “where did it go?”
Conclusions… blog entries don’t need conclusions, do they?