Politics Smug ‘n’ Corny
I’m not one of those assholes who likes to dig up old-timey quotes and throw them around in a “history repeats itselfâ€ť kind of way — it’s usually obvious and smug and incredibly corny. That said, I’m about to break my own rule. I was revisiting some texts from my fave war (World War I - HOLLA!!) and I came across Siegfried Sassoon’s “A Soldier’s Declaration” (published as an open letter in The Times in 1917):
I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.
I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this War should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the War, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.
The parallels between the Great War and our current debacle are beyond tenuous, but the subsequent frantic political sandbagging is what makes Sassoon’s declaration interesting.
The British government first tried to court martial him (that means possible execution!), but decided to forgo the bad press and have him declared mentally ill instead. Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart hospital in Scotland, where he was treated for shellshock and became both a middling poet and a big, flaming homo.
Sassoon (center) and pals