Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Sun

17

Jun

2007

War Foretold: Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race
Sunday, 17 June 2007 17:58
by Ramzy Baroud

When I resorted to Mark Twain’s writings I attempted to escape, at least temporarily from my often distressing readings on war, politics and terror. But his “The Mysterious Stranger”, although published 1916, still left me with an eerie feel. The imaginative story calls into question beliefs that we hold as a “matter of course” – a favorite phrase of his. It summons the awful tendencies of “our race”: our irrational drive for violence, be it burning ‘witches’ at the stake or engaging in wars that only serve the “little monarchs and the nobilities.” 

As the Iraq war rages on, Twain’s words ring truer by the day. “The loud little handful will shout for war…Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will out shout them and presently the anti-war audiences will thin and lose popularity. Before long you will see the most curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men. And now the whole nation will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open.

“Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after the process of grotesque self-deception.”     

Twain, whose genius undoubtedly surpasses time and space, wrote the above passages nine decades before the world’s leading statesmen, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair forged their case for war, based on falsities and refused to examine any refutations; they rallied millions, investing on their ignorance and blind patriotism to carry out a war whose outcome is akin to genocide. The text was also written long before the thousands who stood for human rights, rallied and organized against the war, defended the constitution and civil liberties were “shouted out” and “stoned from the platform”; thousands of those “fair men” and women have endured such a fate, the latest being Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved American mother who lost her son, Casey, in Bush’s war for oil, strategic repositioning of the empire and the neoconservatives’ ceaseless hunt for Israel’s illusive ‘security’. She too was shouted out, and in a heart-wrenching letter, she reached the conclusion, most difficult for any mother to reach, that her son, Casey died for nothing.

But Bush is adamant to carry on with his costly endeavor that has espoused so many new chasms within his country, and in the world at large: religious contentions and political turmoil, damage that neither Mr. Bush, nor his most luminous advisors have the will nor the brains to remedy.

“But what does it amount to?” says Twain, using one of his story’s characters, an angel to convey the idea: “nothing at all. You gain nothing. You always come out where you went in. For a million years the race has gone on monotonously propagating itself and monotonously re-performing this dull nonsense – to what end? No wisdom can guess! Who gets a profit out of it? Nobody but a parcel of usurping little monarchs and nobilities who despise you; would feel defiled if you touches them; would shut the door in your face if you proposed to call; whom you slave for, fight for, die for, and are not shamed of it, but proud.”

Sheehan couldn’t get an answer for why Casey was killed; many more might want to live with the illusion that their loss didn’t go in vain; but dead American bodies continue to arrive back to US soil only at night; the wounded are maltreated and hidden from the public eye, only occasional courageous reports manage to break the silence and the perfected propaganda. In Iraq, the sheer number of dead and dying defies belief; the entire country is now gripped in an endless strife that shall define the cultural and social disposition of future generations; it’s often easy to comprehend and come to terms with a total number of deaths when they are presented in a neatly packaged chart or a website, no matter how harrowing; but once you learn of the individual stories, you wonder whether the days of burning witches at the stake were better times: a young girl raped before her own family and later killed with her own baby; entire families massacred in broad daylight; militants chopping off limbs and ears and noses under the watchful eye of the Iraqi police, for their victims belonged to the wrong sect and stood on the wrong side of the war.

“The Mysterious Stranger” ended up being a figment of a little boy’s imagination – or was it? - its meaning is overreaching and very much real. The war is real and frightening and hurtful; it’s not an intellectual argument; it cannot be reduced to a few images and captions and editorials; nothing can ever capture a moment where a mother receives the corpse of a son or the scene of a father kneeling before the shattered body of a daughter. It’s all real, and it’s all our own doing, whether by supporting, financing and fighting the war, or by staying silent as it rages on.

-Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian author and journalist. His latest volume: The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press: London) is available at Amazon.com. He is the editor of PalestineChronicle.com and can be contacted at editor@palestinechronicle.com
More from this author:
American Voters Must Not Reward Failure (9671 Hits)
By Ramzy Baroud How critical is the situation in Iraq? It depends on who you ask and when. Common sense tells us that the situation there...
Palestine as a Foil for People’s Unconnected Dreams (7878 Hits)
By Ramzy Baroud. Thousands of people recently marched in London to commemorate Quds Day, an annual day of solidarity with the Palestinian...
Treacherous Road to Oslo Begins Here (7992 Hits)
By Ramzy Baroud Attempts to coerce Palestinians into submission have not always manifested themselves in the crude form of a tank, a bullet,...
Killing Hope in Beit Hanoun (8357 Hits)
By Ramzy Baroud “God is greater than Israel and America,” was the echoing cry of tens of thousands of Palestinians, who descended...
Reclaiming America: Democrats Must Truly Change Course (7897 Hits)
By Ramzy Baroud The Democrats' ascendancy within the US Congress could signal the regaining by the public, of its country's direction. ...
Related Articles:
Postcards of the Hanging: Race and Sex in Tennessee (8651 Hits)
"The past is never dead; it's not even past." -- William Faulkner WATERTOWN, Tennessee – The 20th century was well into its...
A Chronicle of Escalation Foretold: The Red Crescent Assault (5939 Hits)
by Chris Floyd This is my latest article for Truthout.org. Links to follow later. Less than a mile from where British Prime Minister Tony...
Race Hate Towards Muslims (6896 Hits)
by Edward Strong Demonizing 'The Other' Terrorism has long been the chief demonizing marker that Israel and the United States have used in...
The Poison Kitchen: Mark Steyn's Racist Stew (8910 Hits)
by Chris Floyd Mark Steyn is a blithering idiot, and his new book about the coming Muslim "takeover" of Europe — a Protocols for the...
This, Pat Robertson, Is How a Nation Gets Punished for Its Sins (4439 Hits)
by Andrew Bard Schmookler You’re right, Pat, that nations pay a price for their sins. But – even disregarding the question of which sins...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (1)add comment

Jimmy Montague said:

Jimmy Montague
Congratulations on discovering Mark Twain.
As a Palestinian, you may not at first "get" all of the jokes with which Twain's books are filled. But if you study Twain for two or three years, you'll know more about America and Americans than most people who were born and lived their lives in this country. Tell your friends: Read Mark Twain and get wise to America.
 
June 18, 2007 | url
Votes: +0

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top