This week’s column will be, of necessity and choice, a bit shorter in length than normal. Since I was a little boy raised in the Eisenhower Generation I have, as have many others of my generation, seen War movies from World War I (the one supposedly to “end all wars”; humph) to Afghanistan, and every major or minor conflict in between. There have been films made about War (it seems prominent enough in history to rank capitalization) between civilization thousands of years old, and films made of War thousands of years from now.
War is found under the seas and oceans and in the skies and over heavens. Many of the storylines of these screenplays are pure concoction set within a historic period; but many are in fact historically accurate and so all the more frightening. And we are devoted to this idea. And we celebrate it.
War. We have no choice, according to oral and written history, but to live with War, so we must find some way of celebrating those who fight the battles, which combatants are not the wealthy of the land (as they are too integral to the business of war) but the lower classes. And it is these men and women we remember and pay homage to on a special day once a year.
Whether the warriors died young on the hard field of battle or in a soft bed long past the battles, in the United States of America their names will be remembered on the last Monday of May every year the republic stands. We remind the living that these honored dead answered their country’s call to arms, a call as ancient as governments. Regarding Memorial Day it is, to borrow some words, all together fitting and proper that we should do this; and the best any of us can hope for is by some miracle the day comes when no country is ever again compelled to call its citizens into harm’s way.
Way back in my elementary school years, on Memorial Day I would recite the poem “In Flanders Fields.” This recitation has been revived in the past decade along with the reading of Greenfield residents who answered the call and now rest in the city’s two cemeteries. It was an honor to do so again this year.
I am no longer a gun owner. Haven’t been for over a decade now. The only weapon I owned, or at least owned three-quarters of, was a 1949 Marlin .22 caliber, lever action rifle. In a slot running the length of the barrel it held 22 short shells, 20 longs and 18 long-rifles. In the right hands, and my hands just happen to fit that description, it is deadly accurate. Marlin made a fine weapon. It stayed in my mother’s home after my father’s death, and 11 or 12 years ago or so I gave it to my son. It is now with him in Idaho.
Over the years, starting around 12 years old, I plinked and plunked plenty of bottles and cans and a few actual range targets. But there were also a fair number of critters that have met their demise from a bullet from that gun, fired by me. As an old roommate of mine would rather indelicately put it, “We should go out and slay anything that runs, flies, swims or poops”; and we did.
I have used other weapons over the years for one reason or other, including a few years ago when with a single shot .22 caliber rifle I attempted to eradicate the squirrel population on an Arroyo Seco Ranch, an impossible task I assure you. About a month ago I twice missed a squirrel on that same ranch, but with a different .22 rifle; this could be the only reason for the misses. But those two misses mark the last time I will ever fire a weapon.
As shootings across the land increase, as the number of gunshot victims rises and the age of the victims lowers, I begin to realize that as a society we have much the same attitude toward domestic gun violence as we do to War; we accept it because we cannot change it. And we know we cannot change it because we have witnessed much carnage and little reaction other than a government cowering before a very powerful lobby.
But we are lucky here in South County because when it comes to some teenager walking onto a campus and killing a bunch of innocent children, well, that just can’t happen here.
Take care. Peace.