We are in the middle of the anniversary of World War One……the Great War….the War to End All War…..America was a Johnny come lately into the war……we entered in 1917 and it ended in 1918……so we did not suffer the massive deaths and injuries that our allies did…..but there is NO reason that this war should be ignored.
Today is the 131st birthday of a intellectual from those dark days….Randolph Bourne…..
When World War I erupted it came as a surprise to the overwhelming majority of American intellectuals. Its barbarity stuck them as anachronistic and they tended to view the conflict as a temporary sidetrack in the march of civilization, an expression of residual animal instincts. The dawn of the Enlightenment and the tremendous progress made in the Nineteenth Century made war seem quite uncharacteristic (in their view) of humanity’s evolving nature.
Of course, they saw themselves as important and instrumental in defining and fine tuning that nature. On the leading edge of political and social brilliance, ivy-league educated, born to lead and with the silver spoon in the mouth to prove it, they were socialists. And when President Woodrow Wilson (who had been re-elected as a peace candidate under the slogan, “He kept us out of war”) opted to throw the full weight of the country’s resources into the European conflict, they rallied to his support.
Randolph Bourne, who was to die in the flu epidemic shortly after the Armistice, cried out alone against the betrayal of the values of civilization by his fellow writers. He and his magazine paid a heavy price and, of course, he did not live to see the backlash following the war. The damage had been done.
Source: Randolph Bourne 1886 – 1918
Today (May 30), as we mark Randolph Bourne’s 131st birthday, it seems an especially appropriate time to step back from the noisy distractions of the ongoing public debate over American foreign policy and reflect quietly for a few moments on the larger picture. For what larger picture do we see when we contemplate war, peace, and the institution of coercive government – the State – and what we have learned over the past century about their myriad interconnections and interrelations?
We Americans know very little about World War One and since it has been a century since it started….I feel that we need to know everything there is to know about any war that we decide that is in our country’s best interests. There is the possibility that we could learn from the actions of the past……so far we are not doing so well in the remembering part.
“History is Philosophy teaching by example”