It’s only right that we honor the people who have fought for us against tyranny and aggression. But please remember that going to war is not always right or justified. We have been wrong just as many times as we have been right, I’m afraid. We must make better decisions. And we must honor peace more than war. Books I have read in the recent past have said it much better than I could ever say it:
And some day we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up. — Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1950)
The soldier never becomes wholly familiar with the conception of his foes as men like himself; he cannot divest himself of the feeling that they are another order of beings, differently conditioned, in an environment not altogether of the earth. — Ambrose Bierce, “A Son of the Gods”, Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1892)
. . . all the scenes he had since been through had not dimmed the horror, the terror of that moment, when his boy comrade fell, with only a breath between a laugh and a death groan. — Hamlin Garland, “The Return of a Private”, Main-Travelled Roads (1891)
In trench warfare five things are important: firewood, food, tobacco, candles, and the enemy. In winter on the Zaragoza front they were important in that order, with the enemy a bad last. . . The real preoccupation of both armies was trying to keep warm. — George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)
One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting. — George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)
It was like an allegorical picture of war; the trainload of fresh men gliding proudly up the line, the maimed men sliding slowly down, and all the while the guns on the open trucks making one’s heart leap as guns always do, and reviving that pernicious feeling, so difficult to get rid of, that war is glorious after all. — George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)
It is doubtful whether our soldiers would be maintained if there were not pacific people at home who like to fancy themselves soldiers. War, like other dramatic spectacles, might possibly cease for want of a ‘public’. — George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)
Above all, innocence alone
Commands a kingdom of its own.
This kingdom needs no armed defense,
No horseman, nor that vain pretence
Of Parthian archers who, in flight,
Shoot arrows to prolong the fight.
It has no need of cannon balls
And guns to batter city walls.
To have no fear of anything,
To want not, is to be a king.
This is the kingdom every man
Gives to himself, as each man can.
Let others scale dominion’s slippery peak;
Peace and obscurity are all I seek. . .
Death’s terrors are for him who, too well known,
Will die a stranger to himself alone.
— Seneca, Thyestes (1st century A.D.) – translation by E.F. Watling