Monday, May 16, 2005


This may not be a word, but if it isn't, it is now going to become one. Ahistorical refers to a viewpoint or an opinion that does not match up with history. For example, if I said "The Civil War had nothing at all to do with Slavery," that would be an ahistorical viewpoint. History shows that slavery did have a lot to do with the Civil War.

Anyway Ms. Diane West makes an ahistorical argument in her latest article. Specifically she talks about how the warriors of World War II were brave and heroic honorable, qualities valued at that time. But our current culture mocks those values.
Then there was Lt. Col. Duncan Campbell, 91, who was awarded two Military Crosses in 1940 in the East Africa Campaign. Walking ahead of the two infantry companies he was leading on a strong Italian position, the Telegraph reported, "he ensured that his C.O. did not lose sight of him in the rough terrain by singing the theme song from the film 'Sanders of the River' at the top of his voice amid the crack of rifle bullets and the noise of shell explosions." (I gather "Sanders of the River" is a cinematic ode to Empire along the lines of the 1939 version of "The Four Feathers.") It's almost difficult to read about such dazzling bravery without also imagining a Monty Python-esque parody popping up like a jack-in-the-box to deconstruct it between the lines. But such was life before the "Desperate Housewife" and the "South Park" conservative, a time when the cultural mainstream -- the all-enveloping mass media -- treated duty and honor like dependable anchors rather than balls-and-chains.
Actually, Ms. West there have always been artists and individuals skeptical of the use of duty and honor. Going back to World War 1, for example, you have the poetry of Wilfred Owen. How does Ms. West read these lines? "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
" One might also consider the writings of Mark Twain for someone who had much to say on the concepts of honor and duty and their misuse.

I can't read anybodies minds, but I suspect for many of these authors, Honor and Duty aren't the problem. The problem is arrogant and greedy men who would use those noble traits to serve their own base ambitions.

Oh, the film "Sanders of the River" stared Paul Robeson, who was an actor, a singer (Old Man River was his signature tune), and an activist, who famously praised the Soviet Union and was a well known socialist. And had a harder time finding work after world war 2. Funny how life works sometimes.

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