Thoughts Before Thanksgiving

I found our readings this week to be interesting and thought provoking on so many levels. I am still seeing connections even after reading and discussing. However, I will try to be concise about what I want to say as there is just way too much to cover in these texts.

One thing that I am just now thinking about and am kind of upset we didn’t discuss in class is what the title “Stragglers in the Dust” is trying to do. At first I read it as Stranglers and that was a whole different vibe. However, who are the stragglers? In a commentary about race and how racial prejudices could possibly end with death, is it speaking to those left behind? Those who are have allowed their hate to make them less than alive. I think this is something to consider as well as the idea that the stragglers are those who think racial prejudice could change, the Nan’s of the world. Also, does dust refer to death or something more? I think it is interesting not only that there is a cleaning of metal, a possibly dusting of things but also a covering. Maybe less in a soiling sense and more in a dust sounds a lot like dusk, the time when day is done and light disappears. This could be ironic, because issues are being brought to light in this story. However, if dusk suggests death perhaps the ultimate death in this story is the hope that Jim is in that tomb.

I also talked briefly in class about identification and how that almost lessens a person. Professor Scanlon spoke on the relatives who want authentic remains of their loved ones which is a genuine desire but I am in the category that I rather not know. I would rather not know how they died, or where. I don’t know how good the military is with sending back remains but bringing them to the United States increases the probability they wouldn’t make it back a second time. Maybe I’m just a pessimist but I think what really gets me is how they misidentified that man in the iconic Iwo Jima photo awhile back. I mean can you imagine being told your loved one wasn’t really the person in that photo. It kind of thrust them down the pedestal, literally because that photo is so well-known and they are raising the American flag. I also think we can’t say that every soldier matters as much as the next. One, that would not fly in the military, they have ranks for a reason, though they can be abused. Someone has to lead and others must follow. Are those who deny these rules the stragglers?

Which leads us into “Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself”. So I looked up the last name thinking it had to mean something. I am still unclear. I found that the surname is Old Welsh for ugl(high) ma(place), the last name of Cardinal Beaton’s mistress, as well as a character in 1984 and War of the Worlds. Not sure if these have anything to do with one another but they could. I will not bore you with my conspiracy theories, as all these could just be a coincidence.

I also found it interesting that there was a cave in this story. To me this spoke about the philosophy of finding ones self or the truth in the world around them. It definitely made me think of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. If we are supposed to read this metaphysically that makes sense. Or literally in that while she is exploring a cave she is exploring herself. The deeper into the cave/dream she goes, the deeper into herself, which means the cave could stand for the parts of herself both exposed and yet hidden. Maybe that is why she is dead at the end. They don’t tell us how she dies but whatever she discovered in that cave killed her. Was the truth too much to handle? I don’t know. Also what was the truth she finds do you thing? It never gets explained and I really wonder why that is.

More so that dream really threw me off and I was not sure what to think of it. Explantations would be welcome because at first I thought it was in reality and that she just had a break down and decided to dress as a barbarian of sorts.

With the dressing along with the color of her hair and the fact that this takes place in Europe, all made me think of Mrs. Doubtfire. Now I realize people do have issues with aspects of this movie as people really do suffer from feeling as if they were meant to be someone else daily. Where do these types of movies fall into our conversation? Another one is Some Like It Hot, where escape from ones identity or loss of it, is only temporary. Do you think Miss Ogilvy killed herself (though it never specifically says I suppose) because she realized she could not live the same life she had in the military?

General Thomas Highway

I was intrigued by our discussion on Thursday about Jefferson Davis Highway because I know of an opposite situation caused by the Civil War. I am from a little town called Newsoms which is about two and a half hours south from here. A major highway that runs through my area is General Thomas Highway, named after George Henry Thomas who grew up in my town. Thomas witnessed Nat Turner’s rebellion which happened in my county. He and his family had to hide because of it and from that event his views on slavery changed. He joined the Union during the Civil War. His wife who was a Northerner might have influenced this decision. Still, his family disowned him because he chose the other side. However, I also have heard that because of his connections to our town, we were preserved from much of the upheaval that went on during the Reconstruction period.

I haven’t heard him being referred to as a traitor by anyone although that stuff still exists. The Civil War is obviously still a touchy subject but more so when you grow up in the rural South, where economic poverty is seen widespread in both black communities as well as white. Yes, there is a decent amount of separation still, with the phrase “wrong/right side of the tracks” literally being applied. Also, the scenery remains relatively the same. There are still rundown plantations and roads named after rebellion events. There is a road near my elementary school called Blackhead Signpost, *referring to one of the punishments inflicted on slaves who rebelled.* I’m not sure what to make of this. I can see how it is offensive to some and not to others, but also more than that I think it is important not to white-wash anything more than we already do. For instance, I never learned Newsoms was the birthplace of the “Rock of Chickamauga” till well into high school I believe. The Nat Turner rebellion is covered in our schools, but I still doubt most people know it happened on our county’s soil. Where I live agriculture is still very much a way of life and a driving force for our economy. For instance our water tower in my town does not mention our history but says “Home of the Jumbo Peanut” which is I guess what will definitely draw people to the middle of what some would refer to as the “boonies”. In some ways I think we are stuck in the past and in some ways I think I am better off seeing my county’s salted wounds that are still festering from a war fought 157 years ago and its aftermath that Virginia still feels to this day. Other people haven’t had that experience and are quite sheltered from the racism that is still prevalent in society.

We were talking about words and the symbolic meaning behind them in my Sociolinguistics class. Last week we discussed the mountain near the Maryland/Pennsylvania border named Negro Mountain after the servant who died on it. Some thought that wasn’t honoring at all and they should change the name to the servant’s actual name. I honestly don’t know if that is such a good idea. Is there a line to what should be renamed and what should not? What do we as a society deem appropriate in terms of historical preservation and just racism being memorialized by hiding behind historical preservation? It is a tricky subject and I want to hear your opinions. We already talked about Jefferson Davis Highway but what about the auction block downtown or the debate about statue in Charlottesville. Where do those stand in the spectrum? Is there even a spectrum? I feel like there has to be because there needs to be a balance between remembering our past and regretting it. Can we achieve this balance? Finally what does it say about us as a society if we can’t?

Is It Enough?

The death of both the body and soul in these stories intrigues me. The existential crisis idea comes into light literally with the story of the blind man. I argue that his blindness is metaphorical to the way people fear death. The knowledge he has, is how we are supposed to “see” suffering as a part of life rather than avoid it.

Therefore, I would argue that the postlapsarian character in the text is not the blind man but rather the nurse. She is blind to the recognition of pain, I think also making the nurse a female supports the post-Eden argument that Professor Scanlon was making.

In both texts we discussed how faith could be a scam that people buy into. Yet, I don’t think this is the point Borden tries to make. The faith we see in the texts does not make life easier. In fact I would argue it makes life a lot harder. The belief in an afterlife is not something that makes their life on earth necessarily better or that person better than anyone else. Our characters still suffer and die. Faith does not alleviate their pain, nor do they always accept death. Yet their faith seems to obey the presence of pain in this world. A believer can still say choose another person, or why me, or what is the purpose. But the essence of faith asks that believers not care about the reason for what sometimes feels like punishment, merely because such reasoning is incomprehensible. That is why the cup of coffee though small is the symbol of prosperity in a world of spiritual poverty, much like the widow giving two coins. Is it enough? I think the reason the nurse is happy in the beginning is because she feels purpose in even the small ways she helps others. She loses that when she begins to feel alone and not looked after like she has done for others. I think this is supposed to show two things. The first is the selfish nature of humanity and how we want our own pain to be stopped before others, much like the worse cases we decide who gets our attention and who doesn’t. Also, the breakdown of the nurse shows us what happens when we focus on being unable to stop death and therefore are unable to help another even in the littlest way. That is why the older ones appear at the end I believe. To show us the need to reach out even if it may do nothing whatsoever not because it makes you a better person or to help ourselves but because empathy is what keeps us human.

Faith is the cup of coffee in the sense that does not aim to take away the picture of how bleak everything is. Our characters still question why they are hurting, they still feel lost and hopeless sometimes like the blind man after all is said and done. However, with faith, with the coffee, with the crucifix before them, death is to be endured not diminished. Faith then is not being proposed as a feel-good and everything is better type of thing. It is a slow process demonstrated in the living of holiness through subtle acts of charity and humility in the midst of a world that is shrouded in violence and blackness, like the priest in Hemingway or Borden. I think this is what Borden is trying to get at in the image of the rabbi holding up the crucifix at the end, that someone was willing to help in a moment of distress as someone was there for you, regardless of what sect they belong to. That is an important lesson to learn whether you are a Christian, Jew, or Muslim.

In conclusion, today is All Saints Day in the Catholic Church. We have talked a little bit about how saints and angels have their role within religion and salvation. If faith was just some temporal comfort in Borden’s stories why does her characters die while reacting to it? Some would argue faith falls into the ideology of war, where you do your bit and are rewarded for it. That could be true, but just like the war itself, feeling or emotion is not the best motivator especially when you lose sight of what you believe you should be rewarded for in times of distress. Faith by obligation is what I say we experience in these stories. The witness that duty for another’s life comes before our own, that is our little cups of coffee or our crucifix holding. We all want to say I can help you, that I can take away the pain, yet this leads to the worst sense relativism from the absolute truth that certain aspects of faith depend on. You can not heal everyone, and often you can not heal yourself or stop death. It will come. There is death on this earth that much is known. So why pretend like we have a purpose in what we do if there is no God? I think this is the question Borden wants us to ask as we read about death and faith, and the hope that still somehow persists in the hopelessness.

Claire’s review of Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful is about two brothers who grow up in Devon, England and fall in love with the same girl in their youth. Love is one of the main conflicts within the movie, not the war itself. Though we do see scenes from the war, the movie is much more focused on wars of the heart. Love is one of these but also within the coming of age realm we see this constant question of “where do I belong” among the brothers. This idea of the war being a backdrop to life and its struggles made the war seem almost less important. This can happen when the plot is too heavily focused on back home rather than the front. However, maybe that decision was intentional to indicate the sharp division of the two different lives. A man lying in his own bed, is not the same person as a solider lying on his back in the trench.

The movie starts with a flash forward of the younger brother Tommo Peaceful being held in a prison cell after a court marshal hearing. That being the opening scene was a poor choice. We do not get much explanation to why we are taken to this moment in time until the very end. The imagery quickly shifts to the brothers in their youth. This part of the movie develops and explains how both brothers fell in love with Molly Monks, the former groundskeeper’s daughter.

The beginning of the movie is rather fast paced to get to the war itself. Once the war enters the film slows down a bit and the events that unfold aren’t so quick. The movie is based off of a book of the same title so the pace of the movie in some of the earlier scenes could be attributed to squeezing in a lot of backstory into a short amount of time. The development of the plot could have flowed smoother without the foreshadowing of the end of the movie or the short cuts of the brothers as boys. These scenes held no real significance except to explain the love triangle that was set up and the death of Mr. Peaceful, their father, which becomes a role Charlie takes on in some ways at the front.

Roles and the adoption of them are what adds tension to this movie. A man has many roles given to him throughout his life, some being father, brother, and in this movie we get the addition of soldier, and lover. The perspective of a character can shift when assuming these positions not only in life but especially in battle. The conflict comes when roles contradict each other. We see this the most in Charlie, the older brother of Tommo who has more at stake when he becomes a father in the movie. Since the movie has no narrator we really do not get to know the characters motivations. Without Tommo or possibly a 3rd person omniscient voice to tell us what the brothers are thinking or feeling, we have to rely on their physical reactions or speech. This is unfortunate because the dialogue did not always match the scene. The film zoomed in on particular details of the boys lives such as their childhood, giving us poems or nursery rhymes without any real explanation as to why this was being done. Such concepts might have been possibly expanded on further in the book but did not transition to the screen.

The idea of conflicting roles does take away from the pain felt in war. However, we have some great examples intermingled of how war and roles interact. The hierarchy of the war displays this. With the introduction of the character Sergeant Hanley, we see how soldiers are made to follow orders, without question, and also what happens if these orders are disobeyed. We are meant to dislike Hanley as he is controlling and gives out unnecessary punishments. However, this might be because he is jealous of Charlie who saves his life and becomes the real leader in charge of this particular section of soldiers, most of whom Charlie knows from back home.

The hierarchy of the front can be compared to the hierarchy at home. This furthers the idea that roles can be found in abundance within ones own life and that the ever-burning question of “where do I fit in” doesn’t merely go away by changing locations.

On a societal level, we notice that the Peaceful brothers are within the lower class economically speaking. They live in a cottage owned by the Colonel. The casting for this character was fitting. The Colonel is played by the late Richard Griffiths, known for being Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter films. The Colonel, a man of wealth and status is unique in allowing us to see how privilege is shown by England the country as well. The Colonel views his country as politically superior, as he proclaims “God bless the Empire” and praises Great Britain for taming the “natives”. Further in the movie though he bashes those who have left to fight while drunk in a bar, which upsets Charlie Peaceful and is one of the determining factors in why he returns to the front line after he sustains a blighty wound.

The war creates division not only in the lives of men but women as well. The best example of this is how an old lady shames Tommo on the street when he doesn’t join right away. Similarly, Molly, the girl he fell in love with as a kid, says “volunteers are brave”. His mother disagrees, and is opposed to the fighting. She says “there wouldn’t be a war if woman had their say”.

The dichotomies witnessed in this movie I thought was an intriguing take on how one chooses his own fate out of the life that is chosen for him. Tommo’s dad who dies saving him represents this struggle of protector when it is inconvenient, which is where Tommo’s guilt pressures him to enlist along with feeling unsure of himself at home. In addition, the metamorphosis from boy to soldier better explains why there is so much time in the movie dedicated to showing us youth, and back home rather than the front. Home is where the soldier is made, and the front is where he becomes lost. That is why the return home is so hard for soldiers to accept, they can not be re-found once they are born into killers.

The killings of the soldiers was disturbing and it was tragic but the speaking of English by the German soldier in the trench interrupted the violent moment, this happened again when a French bar-keep shouts “Go to hell”. Which is a shame because in the trench scene the German says “I do not kill boys” referring to Tommo’s youth (he lied about his age to enlist) but then the German himself is killed by Tommo’s squadron. Within that group, they themselves get picked off one by one. Through these killings of both body and heart we see how fraternity becomes all the more important, in a movie about family and friendship.

I pledge…Claire Dwyer

Word Count: 1198

Last Minute Poetry Thoughts

Before we start class today I just wanted to give my input on the poems from last week. We get a lot of aerial views both natural and urban. From the moon in “I Looked Up From My Writing” to bell towers in “On the Belgian Expatriation”. This gave us a new perspective I believe not only about the war happening in the sky but also a different view of the poor souls stuck on the ground.

The birds symbolize this desire for me. In “August 1914” we see a blackbird that keeps returning to a window sill. Not only did this remind me of the Beatles song and all that angst but also the anguish of trying to keep what you desire out of your mind because you know it can not be obtained much like Hemingway’s character did in A Farewell to Arms. The switch of the blackbird who seems to be somewhat free in movement, perhaps suggesting a soldier on leave who will one day return to the front and not come back transitions into the image of a pigeon in “Between the Lines”. This emphasizes the idea of a soldier being stuck in a war and it is much more a sport. I think of that Wii-game where you shot birds out of the sky, or pigeons can also mean clay pigeons so sport-like qualities of hunting and preying either way. I mean think about it, birds tend to stay in a V-shaped pack like soldiers in formation who are for better use of a term “sitting ducks” unless sheltered.

The idea of the sky also lead me to think about some of these poems from a religious perspective. In “Justice” we have language that is very similar to the words used for the  nativity of Jesus. I think this is interesting because this poem was written in October of 1918, one month before the war ended. We would think such language would be used at the beginning of the war but it is at the end when “salvation” is on the horizon perhaps?

In “For the Fallen” we continue to follow the life of Christ in a weird reverse order. This poem to me speaks of the relationship experienced by a mother and her child in war, likened to Mary and her Son during the Passion on the Cross and all of Holy Week really.

Early on in the war, Easter is hinted at in “May, 1915″ where the earth is renewed but only through the death experienced in winter or what will be the long, bitter war itself.

We also have references to a triune God in “Tri-colour”. Where the Holy Trinity becomes mixed with ideas of patriotism and sacrifice, such as in a flag but it takes on the colors of water, blood, and flesh which are three biblical attributes found in the transubstantiation of the Eucharist. In “Messages” we get a broken knee, and another appearance of the number three but this time more referring to the two thieves and Jesus on Calvary.  In “For a Girl” the lines “kiss the passer-by” and “let me break my heart in peace” stood out to be because they tie the sacrificial lamb theory of the soldier to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and how His heart and His body was broken for all to be saved.

Lastly, “Air-Raid” reminds me of the song Silent Night but in an uneasy way. For some reason this poem seems so sincere but also carries a somber tone as well. This purity within the evil chaos made me think of the ending in “The Second Coming” by Yeats.

My Unpopular Opinions

I have really enjoyed these recent show-and-tells (K of C matches & the pocket shrines) as they hold my interest in the role of religion during the Great War and particularly the role of Catholicism within it.

The reference to guardian angels that we discussed in class about “The Bowmen” made me think of a book I read once called We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing. It is about Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and his seven companions drifting on a raft in the ocean after they get lost over the Pacific. Although this happened in World War II it still holds true I think to some of the experiences of the men in the Great War. Here is where the discussion of delusion or divine intervention collide. I also would like to note the fact that in the book, one of the things that keeps the narrator (similarly to Not So Quiet, this story is from the diary of one of the men on the raft) alive is thinking about getting home and eating strawberry malt milks. I see this constant theme in the books we read of the small comforts that motivate someone in extreme anguish. It’s the little things I guess.

The face of God appears in both the poetry and short stories we read this week. I was intrigued by this because we seem to see God in sources we would not always consider. We can understand how Christ can be seen in the Shroud of Turin but a moon, a solider at battle, how could these possibly be related to the Son of God? Yet the moon and the face we see in it and in the trenches reminds me of seeing Christ in those less fortunate, such as those who are ailing or dying. It also speaks to the fact that at least in the Old Testament seeing the face of God was not a happy occurrence. You would die upon seeing His full revelation which is why only certain people were allowed to and I believe never directly (think Basilisk in Harry Potter though that’s a horrible comparison) This to me increases the guilt factor we find in “The Case of Lieutenant Hall”.This man clearly has a guilty conscience and I think the whole heightened reality of an omnipotent God comes to life in a more relatable way by making a face in the moon. Lastly, I would like to add that the moon shape is significant because it further enhances the idea of wounded flesh, particularly that of Christ being symbolized in the Eucharist. I would also like to point out that within the monstrance which displays the Holy Body of Christ during Adoration, there is in fact a piece within it called a luna. This is an circular glass behind the exterior glass with a gilded metal rim on the bottom that secures the Host in place. I don’t find this to be a coincidence and I wonder if Aldington wasn’t trying to hint at a more spiritual breakdown as well.

Switching from monotheism to polytheism I picked up on a lot of Greek mythology references in the texts. Holding up his own “cross”, the solider who is believed to be Christ becomes an Atlas figure by supporting the war and thus the world on his shoulders (Sassoon 88). I also saw the references of emasculation and slaughtering of children to be referring to the stories of Uranus and Kronos. How Aphrodite was born and how Zeus survived his father trying to swallow him alive (Aldington 85). Similarly the being sentenced to years of labor made me think of Sisyphus. I know it’s a leap but in this text the solider feels condemned to life as much as battle. He feels as if he deserves this hell in the army and at home because of what he has done to those defenseless soldiers.

The thing I think I am still struggling with is the dynamic of a believing country during the Great War. With the introduction of Modernism and society today, faith in the worldwide sense has declined. Though the US is slow to shed these ideals as much as other countries I think we will get to the rate Europe is currently experiencing one day. To me I can’t imagine a time when belief in a God wasn’t the minority viewpoint and I would argue against the norm. I think it also matters what you qualify as faith in this country because many say they are Christian but do not practice but that is a whole different tangent. For our purposes let’s stay away from how claiming Christianity effects politics and focus on just people believing in a God.

This made me think if back then the world was largely more faithful than it is now, there must have been fewer agnostic or atheist solider’s fighting. Yet there had to be some and I wondered what was their reason for fighting if the whole “God is on our side” argument didn’t apply to them? What was their true reason even after being shamed into signing up? I don’t think the God is on our side thing holds up and I’d be interested to know what makes a man fight when he neither fights for God or fatherland.

This also further confused me as Sassoon was against the war, but not a pacifist. Sassoon will always confuse me as there are so many layers to him but how can you not believe in war but be for it in a sense as well? I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of gaps as to why the war even started in the first place. I completely agree that in WWII it was much easier to see good versus bad. I agree that acts committed during both wars were violent but evil, I do not think we can say that with certainty. That to me falls into the words that can’t be defined such as freedom, justice, honor, etc. because these words are words that we like to apply to our own circumstances. Universally, I think many would agree that our own moral or ethical codes are based on the individual principles of a person, if not influenced by an institution such as religion (though I would also argue that there is a gray area to where civil morals and ethics come from if they weren’t divinely inspired in the first place i.e. Ten Commandments.)

I do not condone the horrors of war and terrorism but I will now like to emphasize my previous point of seeing Christ in others. You can say something is wrong with conviction but if someone else sees another way I still say that person has an inherent dignity to them even after committing such crimes. The “evil” or dilemma comes in the form of whether they do not follow the moral compass of society’s standards (though these vary in degrees among individuals of what is considered “right” or “wrong”.) In some way everyone’s moral compass is perverted by selfish means because after all we are selfish creatures, just some selfish acts are more discriminated against than others. In this way I did not like the Germans being referred to as anti-christ in “They”. In some ways those soldiers did not have free will and within that realm of war I almost feel like they had to make their own moral compass. What qualified as a “just killing” in the trenches would not be so back home. In the end, war is just a sad, sorrowful waste of human life. I believe in God, but I don’t believe He causes war. Some may think He helps out in them to an extent but I really feel that’s more Greek mythology e.g. the Trojan War. Still the senseless killing and suffering gets me sometimes. Ah, alas the ways of God are strange ( Sassoon 94) but the ways of the world will always be stranger to me.





Books, Boots, and Babies

Shout out to that reference about the Magic Treehouse series. Those books were my childhood!!! I still remember the day I got Christmas in Camelot thinking it was the coolest thing ever. The books we passed around today were interesting as all I think were published before the war even started. This was a bit puzzling to me as I thought at least on the American side the war happened suddenly and we didn’t really know it was going to start. Also, the books being gender specific was intriguing though I did notice inscribed in one of the books supposedly for boys was “To Marilyn from mother”. The books also reminded me a lot of the Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys novels I read when I was younger. Personally, though I don’t read much children’s fiction anymore I think we have gotten away from the labels of “only boys” or “only girls” at least in literature and I don’t know why that is. Perhaps it is a more conscious effort now especially in our generation.

I thought it was interesting how we talked today about selective blindness when it comes to the characters in the books but also ourselves. When Professor Scanlon said something along the lines of  “But, I need shoes don’t I” when referring to child labor I immediately thought of the scene in All Quiet On The Western Front when Kemmerich is dying and Muller wants his boots. At first I thought that scene was really insensitive but as we go on I can see how the mindset in war is often survival first, sympathy later. But I really raise the question of how when basic needs are placed before manners but more importantly morals what does that do to the human experience. Such actions have dire consequences as I think if we place our own needs ahead of another all the time where does the line get drawn? I know wars must be fought in some cases but sometimes it seems like much of the violence could be avoided or at least the truth seen if we placed ourselves in other people’s shoes, both literally and figuratively witnessed in both our books so far.

Childhood had a big role to play in our discussion today. Many of those who went to fight were boys not men. Again and again we keep seeing comparisons to infants and children. Indirectly today, the child labor reference eerily connected perfectly to the passage we read about the Nellie’s mother wanted another mother’s son to burn alive. I think this is because of how much we have become desensitized towards ethics when it comes to human life. Yes, you could argue the circumstances are different when a country is at war but isn’t it interesting how we don’t consider oppression in factories in the same realm of tragedy. Those kids most likely die at the same rates of those on the battlefields in our book. They are at least maimed like many of the soldiers in our novels. Besides that there is also the connection that both groups get their youth taken away from them but only one gets international media representation. It really made me think about some of the modern questions we are facing when we consider the sanctity of life. Such examples would be abortion, euthanasia, or the death penalty to name a few. I think we as a society have always determined what makes a life “valuable”. But now for the first time and in a very morbid sense I am seeing in the books we are reading the opposite. That in the midst of such horrible violence, there is still a humanity that can be seen and our characters are responding to that. They are nameless faces to us as readers and to those on the home-front but not to our characters if they chose to see beyond the abstractions, into real hearts.

Sports during the Great War

Since going to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, I can’t help but think of something entirely different when I read about dugouts in All Quiet On The Western Front. So I thought I would share some brief musings about sports during the war.

In his article “On Account of War” Matt Kelly speaks about how different the American attitude was towards baseball during WWI then how the game was seen during WWII. In the second war it was more a morale booster due to President Roosevelt’s “Green Light” letter. However, by the spring of 1918 many minor leagues had already closed down as American lives were now engaged in the fight. A lot of Americans were upset that major league players were exempt for the time-being from serving overseas. So, by the end of July 1918 the “work or fight” order issued to all “non-essential” activities applied to major league baseball players as well. This of course speed up the season, and put a temporary halt on the game being played in the States.

The picture of the baseball below is from one the last games before both the American and National Leagues had to quit playing. The game was between the Detroit Tigers and the White Sox.

However, I know in this class we are mainly focused on Europe’s involvement in the Great War. Therefore, I would like to draw your attention to Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert that came out in 2014. I just posted a picture of it here, but there is also a full video on Youtube that I enjoyed watching and you might too.

Now the advert is definitely a nicer depiction of the Christmas Truce that happened in 1914 which we discussed briefly in class on Tuesday. I won’t go into too much detail because hopefully we will get into this subject more when we get closer to Christmas (103 days people!) The commercial however, is accurate in portraying the soccer matches that went on between the opposing forces (in some places, the said “truce” was not ubiquitous by any means as certain sectors were still entrenched in combat.) I would also like to highlight that the year this advertisement came out was the 100th anniversary of the truce. Additionally,  the advertisement was made in partnership with the Royal British Legion, who can be distinguished by the red poppy, as they work with the United Kingdom’s active military and veterans.

Thank you for putting up with my indulgent side as sports is one of my favorite subjects to talk about. Please feel free to contribute if there are any other sports buffs that see where the lines of history and sports often collide.

God, Gorillas, and the Great War

I found the art and propaganda that we reviewed in class to be extremely helpful in connecting ideas about the war to the outside world mainly through religious or popular culture references.

In the poem “An Incident” by Mary H.J. Henderson we see how the sacrificial offering of Christ is mirrored in the death of a young soldier. However, I think this poem takes on another level that we did not discuss in class. To me there can also be a comparison made to Mary as a metaphor for the Motherland or the mothers back home. Upon first glance of the poem my mind went straight to the Gospel passage between Jesus and his beloved disciple who many believe was the Apostle John. Jesus facing certain death at Calvary turns to his mother saying “Woman, behold, your son.” and then to John saying “Behold, your mother.” Then we know that from that hour onward the disciple took her into his home. The relationship that Baumer has with Franz’s mother embodies this concept. When Baumer talks about writing the letter to Franz’s mother and recalls how Franz’s mother pleading for Baumer to watch over Franz, I very much see the communal aspect of motherhood and patriotism mixed with religious motifs within this poem.

I also took notice that the advertisement that read “Destroy This Mad Brute” reminded me of King Kong. However, I think of that as a more modern film than the early 19th century. Ironically, the original movie came out in 1933 while the propaganda poster was credited with the year of 1917 so I wonder if the poster had any influence on the movie. Like the image of a bizarre Trump lookalike maybe there was some foreshadowing going on that just can’t be explained.

In general I’m interested to see how religion and popular culture are utilized in this war because I never really thought about the three being intertwined until I saw these pieces of art and literature.