On this video: 15 February 2003, half a million people in New York City, USA, protest against the plans for war in Iraq.
From The Desert Sun in the USA:
If only Bush would have read a little poetry first …
Dr. Arthur Wilhelm
Special to The Desert Sun
June 29, 2007
During the months leading up to the American invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003, I stood with other protesters every Saturday on the corner of Tahquitz Canyon and Palm Canyon in downtown Palm Springs.
Our signs proclaimed in no uncertain terms that we were being led into war under false pretenses. From vehicles passing by we were sometimes greeted with thumbs up and honks of approval, other times with insults and the middle finger.
Some people on the street wanted to argue, some looked bewildered or amused, and others offered their support and encouragement. Then there were those who suggested that we “support our troops,” implying in that catch-all imperative that we should be ashamed of speaking out against a war that we were convinced was wrong.
Now, more than four years later, this country is torn apart as a result of the ignorance, arrogance and deceit of an administration that led us into an ill-begotten war. Ignoring cultural and religious differences, Bush and his advisers initially referred to an invasion into the Middle East as a “crusade.”
If Bush, who brags about being a non-reader, had paid better attention during his “Ivy League” education, he might have taken more seriously the lesson that history and literature teach: War is by nature destructive, senseless and almost always futile. War is death and devastation, not “shock and awe” as televised in murky blue shadows on flickering cable TV screens.
Our blissfully ignorant president obviously failed to read or understand the major antiwar poems found in almost every high school and college literature anthology.
Stephen Crane’s “War is Kind” (1893) is one such poem. Crane makes brilliant use of irony to reveal the devastating personal loss that accompanies war. The first stanza instructs the maiden not to weep for the loss of her lover, for “war is kind.” The second stanza advises the babe not to weep for the loss of his father, for “war is kind.” The third and final stanza is addressed to the mother, “whose heart hung humble as a button,” and advises her not to weep for her son, for “war is kind.”
Crane’s relentless irony is evident in his description of “a field where a thousand corpses lie.” He exposes the false rhetoric that teaches “the virtue of slaughter” and the hypocrisy that views infantrymen as “born to drill and die” for the sake of the great “battle god.”
The final words belong to Shakespeare: “There are few die well that die in battle” (Henry V). From Hamlet come these memorable lines: “We go to gain a little patch of ground/That hath no profit but the name” and from 1 Henry VI: “Now thou art come unto a feast of death.”
But perhaps the most relevant for our present situation are these lines from Julius Caesar: “Cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war.”
If only our delusional, short-sighted, non-reading president and his “puffy petulant” hawkish advisers had read a little poetry before crying “Havoc!”
Dr. Arthur Wilhelm currently teaches Honors French and Advanced Placement English and American Literature at the Marywood Palm Valley School in Rancho Mirage.
More about Bush and Shakespeare: here.
Bush and visual arts: here.