Friday, February 5, 2010

Sergeant Shane Marches to the Front ...

By Shane

I want to fight in World War Two.

Strange request, I know. But war is honorable when it's for the right cause, and what could be more honorable than saving the entire planet from the armored jackboots and racist ideology of Hitler?

If I could travel back and live in a period, it would be the years from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war. Then I'd tack on the 1950s for good measure. I wouldn't spend the war at home, either. I'd be a combat soldier in Europe, firing artillery, emptying my M1 rifle, running up Omaha Beach in the face of murderous German fire. Saving the world for democracy.

I do not romanticize war. It is hell. I know too many people who've fought in them, including my dad, a front-lines combat engineer in Korea, to think it's anything but awful.

Yet, some things are worth fighting and dying for. Saving the world from Hitler and his ilk is one of them. The freedoms we take for granted as Americans have to be defended, and I would have volunteered to do it if given the chance then.

It was the proverbial Good War. All the rest we've had since--particularly the moral outrage of Iraq and Afghanistan--have been political wars. Not fought for a moral cause, but to fill someone's pockets, or allow us to thump our big hairy chests and proclaim that America is tough, goddammit, ya better not screw with us ya sissies.

Those are crummy and immoral reasons to go to war.

I'd also want to return home in one piece so I could live in the America of the 1940s and 1950s, and see the world transmogrify before me. Think of it: the entire ... damn ... world ... was ... remade. Forever and irrevocably. Wouldn't you want to live through such an incredible upheaval? I would. The invention of the jet plane, of the computer, of the modern telephone system.

Of battlefield medicine brought into civilian hospitals, saving countless lives.

Of the biggest economic expansion in American history, and the introduction of such modern work benefits as health insurance.

Of the world coming together, united, to fight a common enemy that threatened all our ways of life.

Of McCarthyism and, more refreshingly, the kicking of McCarthyism's ass and burying it in the bowels of hell where it richly belonged.

Of the beginnings of the banishment of racism and sexism. Racism was rampant during the war--the Japanese poster above is one of the tame examples of that, and of course we dumped hundreds of thousands of born-here Americans into our very own concentration camps for the "crime" of having Japanese ancestors--and we didn't make huge strides against it in the early postwar years. But the banishment started right there. The seeds were planted by WWII, because Rosie the Riveter proved she could do the job, and black, brown, yellow and red men and women fought and died along the white men who'd ruled their country and enslaved the other colors for so long. Once those men and women tasted their freedom and their power to decide things for themselves, they'd never go back to their shackles, real or symbolic. We are richer for it.

Of the Cold War, which brought the destruction of the other cancer that came with the Hitler and his Fascists: Stalin and his Communists.
Of a bunch of other things.
I love life in the modern era, with instant communications, access to the planet through the Internet, and air-conditioning. Like Josh, I'd never want to give up my flush toilet.

But given the chance to live through the emotion and romance and upheaval of the entire world order and its billions of people?

I could learn to live with an outhouse again.


Sophie Littlefield said...

thanks shane for a rousing start to the day...i'm hearing bugles as I get down to work...very inspiring...

Shane Gericke said...

Thanks, Sophie. I had the bugle boogie on when I wrote it :-)

Course, I'm hoping reville will sound at, say, 10 a.m. instead of 4, cause who can fight Hitler without a proper sleep?

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Wow, good for you, Shane! I'm hearing "Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover," myself.

BTW, I don't think you got an outhouse, dude. I think you had to do your business in the trench with everybody else.

Shane Gericke said...

Patton said I could have an outhouse, Rebecca, long as he could use it too :-)

Kelli Stanley said...

Wow, Shane--what a post! :) I resonate with that era the same way, my friend ... and I'd be there, too, driving an ambulance or working in OSS.

I remember meeting an elderly lady in England about ten years ago ... and the look on her face when she told me what it was like for them living through the war. The best in people fighting the worst in people ...

Thanks again for the post, sweetheart. Keep 'em flying!!