The folly of fire and fury

Marlborough Express - - COMMENT&OPINION -

me­mo­rial group­ings that hap­pened across New Zealand yes­ter­day. Be­cause yes­ter­day marked a cen­tury since the day we came as close as we ever have to the sort of ‘‘fire and fury’’ that these dis­grace­ful fig­ures evoke in their rhetoric and, to an un­known ex­tent, their plan­ning.

Oc­to­ber 12, 1917, lays claim to be­ing our worst day. Ever. Only we didn’t know it at the time. The dam­age hap­pened out of sight, though hardly out of mind, at the Pass­chen­daele bat­tle­ground in Bel­gium. In just one morn­ing 950 of our men ei­ther died or were mor­tally in­jured to en­dure days or weeks of suf­fer­ing be­fore they fi­nally suc­cumbed. The great­est loss of life this na­tion has en­dured in any day of its recorded his­tory.

Add the ca­pa­cious ranks of the wounded, fig­ures for which range up­wards from 1900, and you have a toll which still wouldn’t con­spic­u­ously reg­is­ter if mea­sured against the in­vo­ca­tions of the Tweedletrump and Tweedlekim.

And the method­ol­ogy of the long-ago mas­sacre would doubt­less seem ter­ri­bly old-school. (In fact it took a long time even for the bad news to get back home. Some fam­i­lies have re­ported it took a full year be­fore they were of­fi­cially told the bad news.)

But what most alarm­ingly spans the cen­tury is same sense that there’s still a lofty dis­re­gard for hu­man life at play. As if some greater forces com­pel the con­flict. Which is non­sense.

To this day school chil­dren have to swot, quite hard, to un­der­stand the chain of fol­lies that led to World War 1, the es­sen­tial rea­son for which still con­founds so many adults.

With ef­fort, sto­ries of some up­lift and worth can be found from the Pass­chen­daele theatre. Yes, the Ger­mans stayed their guns so the wounded could be stretchered away after­wards. Yes, it is timely to marvel at the brav­ery of our men. But we do a dis­ser­vice to the dead, the harmed, the bereft, if we ex­tend valid ac­knowl­edg­ment of sol­diers’ brav­ery, sac­ri­fice and mate­ship into some delu­sion that they were fight­ing for a truly worth­while cause.

The hell of fire and fury must teach us one thing above all oth­ers.

The hell with fire and fury.

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