Too Much History

Tags: The 11th day of the 11th month.

It was during that minute in Nineteen Hundred and Eighteen that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
—Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

Today is of course Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day, or Veterans’ Day, the 87th anniversary of the armistice ending the First World War. Last year on this day, I posted about my grandfather, killed in action in Italy in 1944. I followed up a few days later with more details. Also on this day in 1831, Nat Turner was executed in Virginia. Last Saturday was Guy Fawkes Day, the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. Yesterday, November 10, was the 230th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, the 30th anniversary of the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, and the sixth anniversary of the day I met my wife. Today is the sixth anniversary of the first time I asked my wife to go out with me, and my third anniversary of fairly continuous blogging. My point? I don’t know. The earth keeps going round the sun. The vast and the terrible and the epoch-making jostle for our attention with the personal and the small. We never get free of history, yet we never stop making more. Like donuts.


World War, Too

I’ve put up a list of my old papers and articles on the Research section of this site. Abstracts for many of them are on line, and I’ll get the others up soon. (If you’re looking for beach reading, all of the papers, even my dissertation, are available on request.)

I have to get some new content into the weblog part of this site too so it doesn’t turn into the “my grandfather died in World War II” website. But my mother and one of my cousins sent me a few more things about the story I posted for Remembrance Day, and I couldn’t help but mention them.

(Had it occurred to me that my parents would share the link to this entry with a bunch of our relatives, I might have left out the bit about Hitler’s lost testicle. Doesn’t seem like the most respectful digression. It could be worse, mind you: I could have linked to the picture from Garth Ennis’ off-color war comic, Operation Bollock, where the titular testicle, swollen with occult power, blots out the sun. Actually, who am I kidding? Most of my family would have loved that. The only real reason I’m not linking to that picture is that I can’t find it.)
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Fighting the Urge to Channel Burton Cummings

(Originally published on my old LiveJournal.)

I’m sorry, Mike, but everybody gets at least one dejected post-election post.

I am not surprised by the outcome. This is pretty much exactly what I’ve been expecting since Howard Dean screamed in Iowa, if not before. Which is not to say “I told you so”, because a) who needs that shit? and b) I tried to make a point of not telling anyone so. But no, I’m not surprised by the outcome.

I am surprised by how much it hurt. At some point in the last four years, without really realizing it, I must have started thinking of the United States as my country too. At some point, American politics became my own deal, and not just a zany Hollywood blockbuster action spectacle mounted for my wry amusement. “To the thinking man, life is a comedy; to the feeling man, life is a tragedy.” I envy my fellow Canadians back home that cozy Hudson’s Bay blanket of ironic detachment I misplaced somewhere along the way.

Yesterday was our weekly luncheon with various fellows of the Academy. Of course, we talked about the election. I note in retrospect that all the Academy postdocs (who are smart liberal 30-year-olds) were, at noon yesterday, pretty optimistic for a Kerry victory, thanks to exit polls and Zogby and ” promised!” But all the Academy fellows (who are smart liberal 80-year-olds) were decidedly not. There’s something to be learned there.

Ah, well. We find solace where we can: The long view (a historian’s best friend), silly role-playing games, and John Harvard’s tonight at 6pm. Be there!

Edit: God bless Jim Carroll, who just made me feel a little better. And I changed the wording above because it sounded like I wasn’t Canadian any more. I still am. More than ever.