Thursday, August 21, 2008

August 21, l9l4

Today is August 21, 2008. It probably hasn't occurred to you that the Great War began 94 years ago today, when a British Expeditionary Force bicycle reconnaissance patrol(as unlikely as that sounds)went looking for Germans near the town of Mons, Belgium. To make a long story short, they found what they were looking for, and in the ensuing skirmish, Private J. Parr of the Middlesex regiment was shot through the head and died instantly.
He was the first casualty of what everyone thought would be a brief war--we'll teach those Germans/Austrians/Serbians/Russians/French some nasty lessons, so the thinking went, and then we'll march jauntily back by Christmas, hopefully with a medal or two. The Kaiser was telling everyone the plan was "Paris for lunch, St. Petersburg for dinner," in other words knock France out of the war first and then swing around and hit the Russians before they could assemble themselves. No one was particularly against this fact, almost everyone welcomed it. How else would nations and individuals know they were brave, that they had the Right Stuff?
Well, as we all know, things didn't work out quite as planned. Private Parr was the first death in what would become an epic slaughter--nine million people were to die in the next four years. You can find his grave, which you see in the accompanying photo, in the St. Symphorien British Military Cemetery outside Mons. You can also find there probably the last man to die in the Great War...a Canadian soldier sniped at about ll minutes before ll on ll/ll/l8. He and Private Parr are the Alpha and Omega casualties of this terrible conflict, which also claimed the life of 4 empires.
There are no end to lessons, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you NEVER CHOOSE WAR because the only thing you can control is the first shot. The Great War and its dead are the most eloquent testimonies to this truth. Consequently, you NEVER CHOOSE as your leader someone who CHOOSES WAR. John McCain tells us every day in so many words how effective he believes war is...he's never stopped fighting the Vietnam War, he apparently loves the Iraq conflict, and now he's sabre-rattling in the Georgian situation.
So don't choose McCain!


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