Make love, not war!

I didn’t know we could choose…  (old SA Army joke)

In 2004 I had a work-related visit to Belgium. We had one day off, so I decided to go to the World War 1 battlefields and cemeteries around Ieper, where some of the most horrific battles in the history of humankind took place.  I have always been fascinated by history, and believe what Benjamin Disraeli said about those who do not learn from history, are destined to repeat the lessons…

The trenches of World War 1 sounds like the most stupid thing a human mind has ever conceived. I am just so glad that I didn’t live then, and had to go over the wall one misty morning… This is the result: The Allied military cemetery of Passchendaele (btw- that was an awesome movie… Passchendaele)

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These  photos were the last I have taken with the old Canon A1 35mm film camera, before I too went the way of megapixels…

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It was just not possible to capture the immense scale of how many war graves there are in just this one cemetery. Not all bodies were recognizable…

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And yes- some of my countrymen also fell on Flanders’ fields…   jut recognizable by the Springbok emblem on his uniform as such…

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But the saddest part of this battlefield is the Menin Gate in Ieper. It has the names of hundreds of thousands of soldiers engraved on it, so blown to bits by artillery bombardments that their bodies were never found- technically still M.I.A. Image

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This is what really got me: On 11 November 1918, at 23h11 the guns fell silent on the Western Front.  Millions of young men have killed each other. A generation was lost. And 21 years later, their sons went at it again…

When I was a boy, I wished I could be a soldier in a war,  Later on, we had to be soldiers or go to jail. Now, as a father, I look upon war as the most senseless thing a human being can do. And I pray that my sons will be spared the experience of taking up arms against another.  I am not entirely a pacifist- I believe Thoreau’s quote that all that evil needs to flourish is for good men to do nothing.  I still have huge respect for the men and women who have to take up arms against the dictators of this world, and it may be the last resolve to right some injustices.

I sometimes work with combat veterans. I see the price soldiers pay for politicians wars. Their scars and wounds are not always visible. But it is there, for years and years afterwards. And so I am with the hippies in the Vietnam era on this one: Rather make love than war!

7 thoughts on “Make love, not war!

  1. Pingback: Cryptoquote Spoiler – 05/10/13 | Unclerave's Wordy Weblog

  2. Ongelooflik treffend geskryf – dankie Ruiter. Die grafsteen wat sê : Known unto God – is in sy eenvoud die mees opregste – in my mening

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  4. Tyne Cot is a profound place to visit and it’s amazing the crowds that go to the Menin Gate each evening. All visitors to the Western Front (and other such places) can’t help but be forced to confront the huge unnecessary waste that conflict brings and question where it all sits in their own conscience and sub-conscience.

  5. Pingback: The lighter side of Belgium… | The Rider

  6. Yes I agree that war is senseless because there are no winners, only physically and psychologically scarred survivors. We can just look around in our own country and see those scars on so many of our fathers and grandfathers and eventually their families.

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