Thursday, November 15, 2007


Last night I pulled out my copy of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories" and tried reading it to the kids. Emma and Walter loved it, and it put Richard to sleep. I remember my mother reading us stories from the book when I was a kid, so it was fun to see the kids enjoy it too. The circle is now complete.

One of the most fun was "How the Leopard Got His Spots". That's the one that I most remember. The line "sit on his head 'til morning" found its way into the family canon and gets quoted frequently. Many other lines jumped out as forgotten favorites, such as "He who takes cakes that the Parsee-man bakes makes big mistakes!"

Emma liked the book so much she asked to take it to bed with her so she could read it. My job here is done!

After the kids went to bed I watched some more Babylon 5, followed by part of Ken Burns' "The War" on PBS. And interesting pairing, really. Both shows deal with the realities of war on both a macro and micro level. It's one thing to look back on WWII from sixty-plus years later and judge what happened by today's standards. It's another thing altogether to experience it from the perspect of those who were there.

Take the decision to use the A-bomb. It's easy to criticize now, looking back across decades of the Cold War, Mutually-Assured Destruction, and the current threat of rogue nukes and dirty bombs. But at the time the only alternative that they could see was an invasion of Japan itself at the cost of millions of lives.

None of the regular troops or the civilian population even knew the bomb existed at that point. When suddenly two of them were dropped and the Japanese surrendered I'm certain they felt immense relief at having avoided a fight that would have made everything that had gone before it seem like a barroom brawl. And what had gone before it hadn't been at all easy. Just taking a single island cost more lives than the entire Iraq War to date.

I can't imagine very many people then seeing the A-bomb as a bad thing. Of course they couldn't see what was coming. But while we're enjoying the blessing of hindsight, we should also consider that we survived the Cold War. In spite of our low opinions of ourselves and human nature, the A-bomb was the first and last nuke used in war. It saved many more lives than it took.

Anyway, what our nation achieved in WWII was nothing short of miraculous. That our men and women faced that trial, slogging through unimaginable horrors, and returned home to resume largely normal lives speaks volumes.

I've only seen bits and pieces of "The War". I'm not sure I want to see all of it.

But I probably should.

No comments: