Saturday, November 16, 2013

France Day 4: Ruinations of War

In 1430, Joan of Arc was imprisoned in the town of Saint Valery, her misfortune commemorated by the placard above the ancient stone walls where she was once confined. Her discomfort must have been great; if my nose turned into an icicle in mild November weather, those unheated earthen prison floors and stone walls must have made for a frozen hell on earth -- the polar opposite of her eventual fate, burned at the stake.

Blogger trying to keep warm
Our host, who lives in the neighboring village, took us on a tour of the area, frequently pointing out ruins with the explanation that "bombings during the war" caused the destruction of what looked like former architectural beauties. Some cathedrals have been rebuilt, but other buildings were left as a grim reminder of the apocalyptic past.

A forest sprouts new growth after a fire, and it seems that humans do as well. The people of France managed to find the spirit of courage to rebuild, but they never forgot the slaughter and mayhem that took place on their land. In every village stands a monument to those who died in battle as they fought to drive out invaders -- who happened to have been the Germans in the last three wars (the Franco-Prussian War, WWI and WWII).

Memorial for WWI Soldiers
American towns and cities don't bear the visible scars of war -- a blessed country invaded only by ourselves when we displaced the Native Americans. But current day soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan (and Vietnam vets from the past) carry the ruins of war in their hearts and souls, an invisible disaster area not addressed or honored -- because they did not defend their own lands, but destroyed the lives and lands of others. 

Our war dead from Iraq were not even allowed to be filmed by the media as their flag-draped coffins were unloaded from military cargo planes onto US soil. You can thank George Bush Jr. for this dishonor, he who sent them to their graves.

War fought to defend against invaders -- versus war fought to conquer -- carry very different feelings; the former generates pride and the latter generates shame. My prayer is that the walking wounded of our own country find their own brand of peace, and may the families of the dead stand up and say, "Never again."

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