A woman made heavy with the girth of affluence said to me: “What did you get out of it? What were you fighting for?” I thought to reply, “Your privilege to buy black-market meat,” but I did not, for flippancy would only anger her and insult my comrades. Nor did I answer, “To preserve the status quo—to defend what I now have,” for this would have pandered to her materialism, which is always a lie. Most of all I could not tell the truth: “To destroy the Nazi beast, to restrain imperialist Japan,” for this she would not have understood. This we had done, and done it without a song to sing, with no deep sense of dedication.
But I could not answer the first question, for I did not know what I had gotten out of it, or even that I was supposed to profit.
Now I know. For myself, a memory and the strength of ordeal sustained; for my son, a priceless heritage; for my country, sacrifice.
The last is enough for all, for it is sacrifice—the suffering of those who lived, the immolation of those who died—that must now be placed in the scales of God’s justice that began to tip so awkwardly against us when the mushroom (cloud) rose over the world. It is to sacrifice that men go to war. They do not go to kill, they go to be killed, to risk their flesh, to insert their precious persons in the path of destruction…
That is why women weep when their men go off to war. They do not weep for their victims, they weep for them as Victim. That is why, with the immemorial insight of mankind, there are gay songs and colorful bands to send them off—to fortify their failing hearts, not to quicken their lust for blood. That is why there are no glorious living, but only glorious dead. Heroes turn traitor, warriors age and grow soft—but a victim is changeless, sacrifice is eternal.
And now to that Victim whose Sign rose above the world two thousand years ago, to be menaced now by that other sign now rising, I say a prayer of contrition. I, whom you have seen as irreverent and irreligious, now pray in the name of Chuckler and Hoosier and Runner, in the name of Smoothface, Gentleman, Amish and Oakstump, Ivy-League and Big-Picture, in the name of all those who suffered in the jungles and on the beaches, from Anzio to Normandy—and in the name of the immolated: of Texan, Rutherford, Chicken, Loudmouth, of the Artist and White-Man, Souvenirs and Racehorse, Dreadnought and Commando—of all these and the others, dear Father, forgive us for that awful cloud.
|—||Robert Leckie, Helmet for My Pillow (via mountains-life-bros)|
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