Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Good Book

Back when summer lasted forever and a day was hours long, a good book was my best friend. Only once was I foolish enough to tell Mom that I was bored. That was the day I learned to iron and dust. Oh boy!

The little county library had one entire section about animals and especially horse stories. Before I was ten, I had read them all. Then the librarian steered me toward some historical fiction. Who would have thought that dead people could be so interesting? Biographies and autobiographies were next. Once in a while something would catch my eye in the new releases. The librarian always seemed to know whether or not I should be reading that “kind” of book. I learned about how the Romans built roads and why those roads were so important. I also learned that most wars were based on two or three basic reasons: greed for either land or something on the land, power or some kind of control, and religion. It wasn’t until I was in college that two of my professors explained and I began to understand that, no matter how they are fought—bows and arrows, scimitars and shields, or tanks and planes—wars are essentially based on what one nation or people want that belongs to another.

And then I saw the war in Vietnam. Who could possibly want anything from that place? We certainly didn’t need anything from that little country. Yet family members and people I had known for years were shipped over there to fight. No one I knew who came back could tell me one thing that had been accomplished by our being there.

Forty years later I have read a few books about that “conflict” or police action or whatever they want to call that slaughter. Yes, I know. More men died in one Civil War battle than died in the entire time we were in Vietnam. But the Civil War at least belonged to us. It was our stupidities and biases we were fighting. But what did we accomplish in Vietnam? Did we build anything? Did we leave people in that country thinking that we were basically good ole boys/girls?

Someone sent a PowerPoint presentation to my e-mail address the other day that showed the progression of the Nazis through Europe. Then it showed the battle lines and the slow recovery of the countries from both the Russian and the Western fronts. I know what that war was all about. No, I wasn’t there and have only read about what we did and why. But I think about England as being an ancestral home. Bavaria was the land of some of my forbearers. But it didn’t matter then any more than it does now. WWI or WWII weren’t civil wars (what an oxymoron). Those wars were barefaced aggression against peaceful nations.

Back when life was simple and a day spent reading a good book was better than just about anything, I could never have hoped to learn anything helpful to others from simply reading. But now I wonder if the book has been written—much less read—that can help us understand or prevent another war. How much research could be done toward using algae or scrub brush mesquite to produce fuel by simply trading in a few billion dollars worth of bombs and other ordnance?

And if the military feels that they must use live pigs for testing their firearms, let them come to Archer County and clean out the feral hogs. Haven’t they ever heard of that saying, “two birds with one stone”? Someday someone like Larry McMurtry will write a book more interesting than Lonesome Dove about how Texas contributed the targets and the terrain for the best military operation known to warfare. I can see the book now: Pork and Barrels—the Story of a Modern Military Menace. Ok, so it is only funny to me….

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