Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Guest Post: Breaking Down the Idealization of War (Part Two)

The idealization of war, personified.
Welcome to Part Two of April's guest post! Part One is available here. Part Three and Four, respectively, will be posted Thursday and Friday at 9:00 AM PST. Tomorrow will be a Wordsmith at Work day, as usual. Enjoy!

For centuries, war was idealized. The image of young men going off to fight and die in bloody combat was romanticized and sung about, and the true horror of war was ignored.

During the medieval era, knightly virtues were considered to be the best, chivalry the manner in which the greatest men in western (or eastern) civilization conducted themselves. Europe had paladins, the Persian Empire it's deghans and Mamelukes, Japan the samurai. They were mimicked and copied (or parodied as the case may be) over and over again.

Beowulf, the Song of Roland, Le Morte De'Artur, the 47 Ronin, the legends of Rustam, these are chronicles detailing the ideals which their respective people sought to be most like. Though the records we have now have been glossed over and prettied up by courtiers who never saw a battlefield, at the core they are the after-action reports of men who went to war, and, surviving its horrors, returned home.

More recently, we have Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, detailing the slow shift to industrial warfare. It was one of the first to truly delve into what men realistically thought and felt. Seeing as Stephen Crane was known to accompany Union soldiers into battle, his visceral images are not simply the products of an imaginative mind but firsthand accounts of armed conflict.

Nations change, they evolve, and slowly the general public began to realize that war was not the celebration of glory that they imagined it to be. During the World Wars, poetry often as not was the medium through which men of all ranks conveyed their most personal thoughts.

Patton, America's storied general of infamy and renown was an accomplished poet. His German counterpart Rommel, an equally brilliant writer in his own right, wrote manuals for field operations that continue to be used in modern military training. These famous generals' writings helped bring the public awareness of what really went on in the battlefield.

From the horrors of World War I, we read of poppies in Flander's field. The advent of the printing press has done much to assist in this matter, making available to the general populace all manner of material to read. And yet, some would argue that it has harmed as well. The sensationalist yellow journalism that took place during Vietnam and the anti-American attitudes which are memorials of that generation stand in stark contrast to the wars and fighting men of yesteryear. It is a lapse in judgment we continue to correct even now.

After spending 19 years a virtual prisoner in the People's Republic of California, Jonathan LaForce escaped, spending two blissful years serving as a missionary for his church in Dallas Texas. Upon completion of this assignment though, he returned to California and found himself once again impoverished, despite working as a security guard at the Six Flags Theme Park.

Refusing to remain in this state and having nothing to tie him down, he enlisted in the Marines. Three years later, with deployments to the Orient and Afghanistan as an artilleryman in the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, he spends his time running riot in his truck all over the island of Hawaii while destroying what little hearing he has left with bagpipes and classic 80s rock.

A Guide to The Modern Military Writer

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