Édouard Manet II

The Rue Mosnier with Flags, 1878, Oil on Canvas, 26″ x 32″ (approx) Getty Museum

The French declared a holiday to celebrate the ending of the disastrous Franco-Prussian War. Manet was there to record the finery just before or after the streets were thronged with revelers. Flags fly in proud colors from every window. That is how it goes when we remember those who sacrifice so much in our behalf. We who do not go, we who do not die, we who do not suffer host a parade and sing a song, and thank them for their service.

Thank you for your service.

A reporter followed a sniper into a room in Sarajevo, interviewing him for a magazine. Through the room’s window they watched two men fetch water from the well below. The sniper looked at the reporter and said, “Pick which man I should shoot, and I will spare the other.” The reporter immediately argued that he could never do such a thing. So the sniper shot and killed them both. He turned back to the shocked reporter and said, “What a shame. You could have saved a life today.”

We could have saved a life today.

The soldier does not want to be remembered. He wants to live. He does not want a song; he wants a job. He does not want a parade; he wants to be able to walk on his own legs.

Memorial days are not for the fallen, they are for all those who did not serve so they can feel better about sending their children out to die. And for far too many in this country the closest they ever get to a soldier is asking the returned serviceman if he remembered to put an extra ketchup in the bag.

Thank you for your service.


On Being Asked for a War Poem

I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;
He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

William Butler Yeats

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1 Response to Édouard Manet II

  1. CMStewart says:

    The most accurate description of Memorial Day- and of the human condition- I’ve read. Thanks for posting.

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