"And the ladies that will all become," How the war came to Main Street and recruited us all, some thoughts
Author’s program note. I was restless that night and also did what I hardly ever do, turn on the television for light entertainment. However, this was not meant to happen. In fact, there would be no light or joy at all for that day and the excruciatingly long day to come …
I saw the characteristic that so often distinguishes the nightly news, the video transmission of a crime scene, the place is usually a place in the center of the city that no sensitive person would go to, let alone in the dark of the city. evening. The sirens sounded. Sharp reds and blues cut through the night. The police strutted, made the kind of uncompromising gestures that seem so officious and ridiculous, but which we card-carrying middle class members of the middle class rejoice at times like this are on our side.
Yes, it was the usual late-night distraction that would be buried in page 8 of tomorrow’s paper. Nothing to do with me … not even the caption at the bottom of the screen: “MIT security officer assassinated.” But from that moment on, through the long night and the longest day that followed, everything was direct, personal, everything to do with me.
The reporter pointed to the crime scene as Vassar Street, Cambridge, while the video on the screen showed a large fortress-like structure that was a building well known to me. There is stored the overflow of my cargo rat life … copies of my books and articles, my father’s letters from the Pacific front in WWII, both sides of the voluminous correspondence when my mother and I were solving the problems. In a relationship where loving each other did not stop us from saying the sharpest, often hurtful words, she in her copper hand, mine hasty and unreadable.
Such things and so many others were the crucial artifacts of life, things that would now be kept in boxes, that would be considered in spare time, someday, I promise … It was all in the building behind the reporter. Life was about to change forever when the total war of our time dragged me, imperious, without thinking about who I was, what I had been doing, no matter how important it was. My wishes, desires, priorities didn’t count for anything … and neither did yours.
“When Johnny comes marching home.”
The lyrics for “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” were written by Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore. His first publication of sheet music was deposited with the Library of Congress in 1863, with lyrics and music credited to “Louis Lambert,” a pseudonym Gilmore inexplicably used in place of his own name. The copyright was retained by the publisher, Henry Tolman & Co., of Boston.
Determining who actually composed the music is much more complicated. There is, for example, a melodic resemblance to an earlier drinking song titled “Johnny Fill Up the Bowl.” Someone named J. Durnal took credit for its arrangement, though not for its composition. This, in turn, bore a distinct melodic resemblance to a Robert Burns tune, “John Anderson, my Jo”, dating back to a 1630 tune titled “The Three Crows” … dating back to … but you get the picture.
The important thing is how popular it became with Confederate and Union troops. And no wonder … it’s a great marching song … the music urges weary feet to go further and never waver … while the lyrics remind them of the delights of home, which they will soon be able to savor and enjoy, just one more battle. … only one. Before proceeding, go to any search engine where you will find several great versions. Listen carefully to the lyrics that are now ironic and as distant as ancient Troy.
“The men will cheer and the boys will yell.”
This is how wars were fought in those days … and, until the next day, in ours. We knew who the enemy was. We knew where it was. We knew what he was fighting for and we knew he had a code of martial honor that (at least occasionally) would make him think twice about doing the unspeakable. It was certainly a code that was most often respected in infringement … but it existed, even if only at one Geneva convention or another.
Thus, our beloved troops dressed in their battle gear, aware of the last kiss to the bride or wife; these held back the tear that will surely fall when alone only a few minutes from now when the loved one is gone, perhaps forever. Parents hugged children they would not recognize when they returned; They grow so fast.
This was the war we knew … cheers for departure, a sure victory for our cause was always right and our resort to war was always reluctant and reluctant … then loud, sustained and enthusiastic cheers as Johnny marched home .
Now, that kind of antediluvian warfare is just a matter of memory, likeness and illusion … for now we are not going to war with all the finery, flags flying, the raucous music, suitable for the high business of the Great Ones. Republic. In fact not. For now we are neither going nor returning from the war. That war comes to us and confuses our lives more than even the greatest of battles … because we are all fully engaged in this new kind of unlimited war, undeclared, without rules or procedures of any kind, a war where the first victim It may well be being an 8-year-old boy, his life shattered and torn to pieces by malefactors whose movements are secret, stealthy, and murderous, completely meaningless, honor, and the respect that soldiers in other wars might give to their worthy opponents.
But this new type of war is completely different, insidious, it takes prosaic objects and situations, turning them into the weapons of fear, anxiety and random death. This is a world where evil can lurk behind youthful and youthful faces and behavior. Where there are no military helmets, but baseball caps, worn backwards with approved adolescent chic. This is a world where the element of deadly surprise always belongs to the attackers and can therefore be handled with ruthless precision and great precision.
This is a world where the elements of bombs made to maim, dismember, and destroy are no further than your local hardware store, as amidst waxes, sprays, paints, and screws lie the essential tools of ruthless catastrophe and fear. reverberant that paralyzes. a great city while making millions more around the world wonder if this could happen to them, knowing full well in their anxious hearts that these purveyors of death might already be related to their cruel and selfish work; perhaps the surly young man who frowned when he was greeted today … worse, perhaps the handsome young man who smiled, offering a friendly joke or a passing joke. You see, the agent of mass pain and suffering can easily wear the kindest face.
These are the aspects of our new kind of warfare, warfare, here now, here for the rest of our troubled and restless lives.
“Stay home. Don’t open the door.”
I have never received a call like this before, but I am sure I will receive others like this for years to come. He had decided to go out and see what he could see. But I never got a chance because the Cambridge Police Department called to tell me to stay home and make sure no strangers were allowed in. They called this blockade; turned me, and hundreds of thousands more, into a legion of inmates …
And so all of us, surrounded as we are by a plethora of communication devices, use them to fuel our anxiety and disbelief. In the line of fire, as we were, we listened carefully to every detail often inaccurate, incomplete and alarming. Like any good journalist, we examined, we revised, we made inferences, we listened to more assumptions and “facts” that will soon be discarded … drifting first one way, then another as events unfolded; our absorbed and incredulous attention that so much happened, so close, so inexplicable, in my city, in my neighborhood and at my doorstep.
It was surreal, unforgettable, fascinating, terrifying, the new reality of our challenging, nervous and insecure times. And everything can take place anywhere and at any time against any of the peoples of this Earth, people whose race, creed, color or disposition are considered inappropriate by some “superior” group whose first objective is to kill the very idea of diversity. Because in a world that must necessarily value, fight and appreciate the diverse; they aspire to a single truth, their own, and as such they are willing to go anywhere, destabilize any society, participate in any barbarism to ensure their path. These are the absolutists of world politics … the lord thugs who keep the rest of us in danger and everything we value … they offer hatred, violence, an agenda of outright evil and unrelenting malice.
Against such a litany of horrors, all good people on this planet must remain united by our creed, tolerance for all, acceptance, humanity, diversity, inclusion and always love, because without love there can be no lasting peace … and lasting peace. It’s what we live for Thus, the path of unity and community is the only path. Otherwise, random death and the impressive response apparatus will be our portion … Thus, to save our freedom, we are forced to give up our freedom, losers no matter what. We are already on this dangerous path, with reason to be apprehensive and filled with dire omens and growing alarm.
“And let each one do some part / To fill the warrior’s heart with joy / And we will all feel joyful / When Johnny returns home marching.”