Taking stock

In a week when we commemorated a Nation’s war dead with a two minute’s silence and share our neighbour’s grieving from a fresh atrocity, a lot of voices call for action. Radios are filled with declarations of war and bombing campaigns, the rightness of shoot to kill policies and imposing new security measures to protect.

There are accusations made about the narrow focus of this outpouring; why so much angst when it is Paris and not for Beirut? On a personal level I am horrified by both but the French experience is more visceral, more real for knowing the city, giving the horror a context. I am also imbued with a shared history of fighting foes. We haven’t always loved France and the French as a construct but we are as close to its people as any other nation on the planet and in the last 100 years we have needed them as much as they us.

All this takes me back, as so often melancholy does, to my father. He loved and despaired of the French in equal measure. He would fight with them any day, more than with any other nation. When war was declared in September 1939, he recalls his father’s reaction to the famous radio broadcast. ‘It will be a good year for plums’. Not some call to arms. A non sequitur, perhaps, or rather a way of displacing his anxiety that his son, then approaching 14 would have to fight as he had in 1914. Tyranny must be defeated but let us be wary and cautious of the cost, on all sides.

I wrote this poem (in nonet form) as a reaction to a prompt about Armistice Day but it seems apposite to share it now. Before we rush to action consider who it is who will suffer most

September 1939

‘No response received; we are at war.’
The wasp is drunk on rotting fruit,
Spins slowly. Disturbed it jabs
Its sting, thoughtless who’s hurt.
It’s instinct. It knows
No better. We do.
Yet still we
Let them
Rot.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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23 Responses to Taking stock

  1. Yvonne says:

    Geoff, your last paragraph sums up much of my thinking on this. It’s not black or white, hard to know what’s right or wrong as far as what action to take. I hear and read people who are so convinced we should be bombing ISIS strongholds that I am almost convinced, and then I hear or read accounts by people living in cities held by ISIS, who have such mixed emotions about it. They want rid of ISIS, but don’t want their cities destroyed. And then there’s the risk of bombing Syrian people who are not involved with ISIS – somewhere I read of a Red Cross being destroy by American drones (it may not have been in Syria, but it was in a conflict zone and they had made a targeting mistake.)
    So it’s not clear-cut at all. I actually feel tremendous compassion for all the political leaders who have to make these terrible decisions. It must be intensely stressful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      I agree it is an almost impossible job seemingly intractable. I understand Corbyn’s distaste for shoot to kill and the need to have it in extremist to avoid mass slaughter. I prefer politicians assuaged with doubt rather than those convinced of their own rectitude just so long as they make considered decision. Only history will say if it was judged right and even then we will never know .

      Like

  2. Sherri says:

    There was a discussion on Facebook about the coverage of Beirut, or non-coverage as some thought (it was covered on the BBC). I wondered about the lack of outpouring for the grief suffered there myself (and what about the plane blowing up over Egypt?) but I think as you say, we feel it more keenly with France knowing the place more intimitely, Paris being, well Paris. Right or wrong, it is the way of the world isn’t it? I had planned to post about my visit to Oradour-Sur-Glane for Armistice Day, but time constraints prevented me. It’s a village in France that is left as it stands having been decimated, it’s inhabitants massacred by the invading SS just after D Day in retaliation for the French Resistance capturing an important Nazi general. I find it hard to express my thoughts as I remember walking through it. Perhaps it was best I hadn’t posted it when I planned in light of the devastation in Paris. I decided to post instead about a beautiful, serene village in Normandy I visted in September with my family in my tiny way to try and show solidarity and to remember something beautiful and light. And to remember our neighbours, and friends. But we feel so helpless don’t we? Your grandfather’s response to the outbreak of war struck me as very poignant. And your poem is powerful, thought-provoking…thank you for sharing your thoughts Geoff…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. trifflepudling says:

    I think when ‘hostilities’ occur on the European mainland, it is bound to elicit more coverage in the UK than events actually occurring in the Middle East, especially because, sadly, dreadful atrocities are a daily occurrence for these poor folks. I don’t think we should feel bad about ‘ignoring’ them for a few days; doubtless there wasn’t space in their media for full coverage of the Paris events either. You just can’t cover everything equally and it is a decision which editors have to make all the time. Thousands of things go on in the world that we never even get to hear about.

    Difficult and sad times; hard and unpalatable decisions to be made. I don’t think we can afford to pretend that there won’t be a price and that the cost won’t have the potential to be high. Time for soul-searching and moralising may be a luxury we just don’t have at the moment.

    Hopefully your dad might have lightened the atmosphere by suggesting a pint and switching on the ODI to see what England’s bowlers are making of things(!).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ps I put ‘hostilities’ in quotes because I wasn’t quite sure how to term the event when people are already talking about war, but the West (and whoever else the opposition is) have yet to be official about declaring war. As far as I’m concerned, what happened on Friday was at the very least hostile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I suppose I remain firmly in the camp that says don’t rush in. Rarely have speedy engagements worked. I accept there is a danger if you fail to react at the right time. I have no answers, merely a number of worries and a wish to have fewer regrets. And yes the cricket has been a small placebo…

      Like

      • trifflepudling says:

        In the slightly ungrammatical but thought-provoking words of Gordon Sumner aka Sting:
        “I never saw no military solution
        That didn’t always end up as something worse.”
        But what to do …

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        For me I’d go with a military action if I was convinced they knew what the end game was after they defeat these terrorists. History suggests though you win first and then do some thinking. And there are too many examples of that just making things worse.

        Like

  5. roweeee says:

    Geoff, I do wonder where all this is heading. My Geoff went to the Gold Coast for a work conference today and I was much more apprehensive than usual. Call m when you get to your hotel. No point calling me on the way. When you’ve arrived safely. I personally feel it’s a time where you want your loved ones under your wing…close by. Anything coulld happen anywhere but at the same time, the sun came out again here. The beach has recovered from the storm and the previous storm at last so it’s just our place looking like a ruin.
    I do wonder whether the reason people are so shocked and outraged about the atacks on Paris is the sense of idealised romance people have of the place. I spent a month there in 1992 and it had a serious underbelly then and romance involved predators on a grand scale as well. Many of the French were rude and obnoxious so there are far better places to go to for me. At the same time, I love the architecture and food culture.
    I also can’t help thinking of our siege in Sydney just before Christmas last year. Only 2 people died but the impact was huge. The CBD shut down and it was awful.
    Anyway, it’s way past my bedtime. I stayed up doing that flash fiction challenge. So, it’s goodnight from me! xx Ro

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    I don’t know what to say.

    Like

  7. Sacha Black says:

    Beautiful moving poem love the last sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. noelleg44 says:

    With a son in the military whose already spent three years of his life in Afghanistan and Iraq, I am not ready to see us wage a land war against ISIS, but I am equally convinced that bombing is going to eliminate this scourge of humanity. We Americans have waged war as never before, trying to avoid civilian casualties, often to the detriment and death of our soldiers. I think there is one thing almost everyone will agree on: the expansion of ISIS unchecked poses a threat to survival of western civilization.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I understand Noelle. Bombing per second won’t be the solution but combined with local ground forces and a commitment to the necessary long term political and financial support it might. I just don’t believe in the latter just now. Daesh must be defeated as much as Nazi Germany but we don’t need the vacuum left after the second Iraq war or indeed the disgraceful abandonment of eastern Europe in 1945

      Like

  9. Norah says:

    Great thoughts to contemplate Geoff in these difficult times. Your poem is very powerful, verbally and visually with a sting in the tail/tale. Well done.

    Like

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