I should be working on my essay about faith. I really should, but everyone needs a little break now and then. My readers, that is, if they are still around, have not heard anything about Oxford. Well, you're not really going to hear any now either, but this has to do with the academic experience.
We went to London on a fieldtrip to the Imperial War Museum. It was relatively tasteful in its memoriam to those who experienced wars of several periods and places. But I still could not stifle the pained desire to be able to walk away from all these artifacts and forget war, to forget who shot who, who was a tyrant and who was an angel. Because if we don't forget some of that, we may continue to perpetuate war and hate for the sake of getting even, or simply by way of justification using past experience.
But we can't forget can we? To do so would dismiss the voices of persons' experiences. And isn't that war often does-- dismisses voices? If I were to have my memory erased of all traces of war and war history, where would the voice of non-violent resisters go? Where would I learn from our ancestors what is NOT worth dying or killing for? At the same time, I would not remember the voices of those who believe to kill for peace is just, or that violence can beget something other than more violence.
If we forget, we forget history, good or bad, the steps and struggles that have brought us to where we are. If we forget war, we forget the voices of women and men living their normal lives in the midst of a narrative more focused on conflict of the battlefield and political engagements than the conflict to put food on the table, to have hope, to survive.
In the Children and War exhibit, there were little boxes with trinkets children had been given or tried to take with them when they were evacuated during WWI. A little plush pony, an amber necklace, farm animals carved from wood, letters from parents to children on ships sunk by missiles. They never received those letters. They were written after the children were dead by parents unaware.
In the main room fighter planes hung from the ceiling with huge propellers. Tanks of many shapes parked in various places shone with green paint. And the largest bullet stood straight up, looking to the sky. But this was dwarfed by the massive bomb in the middle of the atrium, visible from all balconies.
And I can't help but think, that is not the stuff of life. Manipulated metal and explosives are not the stuff to base our memories upon. I'm pulled back to a poem by Eavan Boland about a piece of amber with its little bits, and I see the amber heart pendent in the war museum. And the little toys. Could we please remember those when we think of war? Could we please remember not only what was fought for and who fought on the front lines, but what was sacrificed by all, whose voices were disregarded, whose letters were never received.
I know we must remember, but I wish we could forget.