a desiderative pastiche
The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a
George Santayana (1920, 1956)
The natural approach to human relations presumes that to know any
person well enough is to love him, and that therefore the only
human problem is a communication problem. It refuses to admit the
possibility that people might be separated by basic, deeply held,
genuinely irreconcilable differences — philosophical,
political, or religious. Thus the effort to trivialize etiquette
as being a barrier to the happy mingling of souls actually
trivializes intellectual, emotional, and spiritual convictions by
characterizing any difference between one person's and another's
as no more than a simple misunderstanding, easily solved by frank
exchanges or orchestrated encounters. Many forms of etiquette are
employed exactly to disguise those antipathies that arise from
irreconcilable differences in order to prevent mayhem.
Judith "Miss Manners" Martin
Minister: An agent of a higher power with a lower responsibility.
In diplomacy and officer sent into a foreign country as the
visible embodiment of his sovereign's hostility. His principal
qualification is a degree of plausible inveracity next below that
of an ambassador.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce
Plenipotentiary: Having full power. A Minister Plenipotentiary is
a diplomatist possessing absolute authority on condition that he
never exert it.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce
It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts,
than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.
Mohandas Karamchand "Mahatma" Gandhi
Peace may be far more comfortable than war, but we learn more
from sorrow than from ecstasy, from labor than from idle, from
challenge than from security ... and from this learning we
acquire understanding ... and through understanding we may obtain
The more prosperous and settled a nation, the more readily it
tends to think of war as a regrettable accident; to nations less
fortunate the chance of war presents itself as a possible
Lewis H. Lapham (1991)
A self-respecting nation is ready for anything, including war,
except for a renunciation of its option to make war.
Simone Weil [The Power of Words,
Nouveaux Cahiers (1937; 1962)]
Patriotism is an ephemeral motive that scarcely ever outlasts the
particular threat to society that aroused it.
Denis Diderot [Observations on the Drawing Up of
Laws (1774; 1921; 1966)]
I do not mean to exclude altogether the idea of patriotism. I
know it exists, and I know it has done much in the present
contest. But I Will venture to assert, that a great and lasting
war can never be supported on this principle alone. It must be
aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.
George Washington [21 April 1778 letter]
For most men, their love of country is only represented in their
courage to suffer the flagrant abuses of patriotism.
paraphrased from Duc François de la Rochefoucauld
and Le Comte de Lautréamont [Isidore Lucien
You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face
reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.
Malcolm X [Little]
You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting
the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.
Clarence S. Darrow
The mark of a civilized person is his
willingness to deny his own self-interest in recognition of some
greater cause or finer motive. Culture, being the ultimate
development of self by cooperative extension, would not exist
without selflessness. Whenever justifying our transgressions,
destruction seems to be inherently coupled with our aspirations;
but some ill-defined things of no extrinsic value are worth dying
for. These bloodstained dreams have made us better than we were.
Sacrifice and giving are the foundations of the good society. In
fact, sacrifice is the pre-condition for a free people. Its
neglect comes at the cost of all that has made America what it
is. Promoting the common good is something that each of us must
take up ourselves. America lives today because for two hundred
years there have been women and men who prized freedom above life
War alone brings up to their highest tension all human
energies and imposes the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who
have the courage to make it.
Benito Mussolini [The Political and Social
Doctrine of Fascism Enciclopedia Italiana
Several young ladies were assembled engaged in scoffing at our
men as they passed, but they were treated with contempt or
derision. I heard of nothing witty said by any of them. It was
made evident however that they were not ladies in the southern
acceptation of the word. The men I spoke to acknowledged that the
brutalities practiced by their troops, upon the southern people,
fully justified our retaliating and were surprised at our
moderation — the poorer classes told me that our troops
behaved better to them than their own did. ... The people of
Chambersburg are decidedly. The men dare not show it but by their
looks, the women tried to be sarcastic on various occasions but
succeeded in being vulgar only. They are a very different race
from the southern. There's a coarseness in their manners and
looks and a twang in their voices — which grates harshly on
the senses of our men; the distinction of class, the poor and
sick is very marked. Everyone speaks for peace at any price, and
since war has been brought to their own homes, they look
desponding to the last degree, and begin to believe that they
have been vastly deceived by engaging in it — I have found
no one to speak of Lincoln as a man of either capacity or
patriotism, everyone even the women think he is under abolition
influence entirely, and they assert boldly that freedom should
not be the lot of the negro.
Lafayette McLaws [15 June 1863 letter]
The flat unsmiling face, the glinting bayonet, and the polished
boots all seemed impervious to thought, let alone fear. There is,
as I later found out, no real fear unless you think about it.
There is sudden terror, but that is more easily controlled than
the kind of fear that gnaws away over a period of time. The first
thing we had to do was make these people think. I use the word
'people' loosely, because except for the one I saw briefly
smiling, they were as impersonal as tanks.
Nathaniel Benchley [Bright Candles (1974)]
It is fear, not law or clemency, that constrains the wicked.
Do not look back in anger, nor ahead in fear, but around in
James Grover Thurber
And yet here's a peculiar thing. Even in the echo of that awful
deafening crash, which seemed to freeze me up from top to toe, I
had time to think that there's something grand about the bursting
of a big projectile. What does it sound like? It's hard to say;
because what you hear is mixed up with what you're frightened of.
Mainly it gives you a vision of bursting metal. You seem to see
great sheets of iron bursting open. But the peculiar thing is the
feeling it gives you of being suddenly shoved up against reality.
It's like being woken up by somebody shying a bucket of water
over you. You're suddenly dragged out of your dreams by a clang
of bursting metal — and it's terrible — and it's
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]
[battle is not] the real war.
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian Wars
The real war was not movements or maps; it was not enlistments
and discharges; it was not the relative abilities of officers and
politicians. Nor was the real war manufacturing and supply; it
was not regimental formations and battery organization, solid
shot or shoes for horses; it was not numbers and losses, nor even
killed and wounded, or battlefields and cemeteries. It was not
anything we can count, measure, or read. The real war was a
Kent Gramm [Somebody's Darling, Essays on the Civil
War is not a true adventure. It is a mere ersatz. Where ties
are established, where problems are set, where creation is
stimulated — there you have adventure. But there is no
in heads-or-tails, in betting that the toss will come out of life
or death. War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry [Flight to Arras
The ifs can kill you, and the never
agains can gut you ... time divided by life equals death
John D. MacDonald
There are no medals awarded for regret.
I had seen so much of real suffering, of conflict, danger and
death, that for years I could read neither romance or history,
for nothing equalled what I had seen and known. All tales of war
and carnage, every story of sorrow and suffering paled before the
sad scenes of misery I knew of.
Cornelia Peake McDonald [April 1865 diary entry]
The baby-boomers who advocated peace and championed the counter
culture don't have any real battles to talk about, so they feel
compelled to amend, colonize, annex, quantify, qualify, trammel,
co-opt, usurp, steal, or commodify every meaningful thing from
any other generation in hopes of investing some genuine value
into their pretentious and selfish lives.
paraphrase of Joe Queenan
From my earliest childhood I have been toiling & wearing my heart
out for other people, who took all I could do & suffer for them
as no more than their just dues.
John Randolph [letter to John Brockenbrough]
The Army sure knows how to take the patriotism out of a man.
When baiting a trap with cheese, always remember to leave room
for the mouse.
Saki [Hector Hugh Munro]
The shattered heel and what remained of the calf of his right leg
began to pain Doniphon [Lear], and he began to lean more heavily
on the cane, which he had never learned to use properly, and with
which he was even more clumsy now that he depended upon it more.
It was a good cane, from what he knew of canes, a plain black
military cane with a solid rubber tip, which they had issued him
at the hospital, as though it were any other standard piece of
Army equipment, with its own serial number stamped or engraved
upon it somewhere, though he'd not yet found it. The fault was
not with the cane but with him. He had never given canes enough
thought in those days when he had not needed them. He had not
prepared himself to be a cripple. He'd always been prepared to be
a corpse, because that took only a certain viewpoint which had
always been a part of his nature; but it required a special skill
to be a cripple, and he had not foreseen that. The Army should
give courses preparing men to be cripples. The mistaken
assumption was that you survived battle intact, or you became a
corpse. But there were always more cripples than corpses. He
could imagine training lectures entitled: Procedures on
Adapting to the Behavioral Pattern of a Minimal Functioning Human
Organism; and the opening sentences of such lectures
appeared in his brain as though they were printed on the brownish
paper of military manuals. But since neither he nor the Army had
had the foresight to prepare him to be a cripple, he had to drag
himself inefficiently down the empty avenue, the smart click of
his good left foot against the cement followed by the soft thump
of the cane and scrape of his wounded leg. [He was] A hurt hawk,
a fallen but undead Icarus on disability pay.
Andrew Jolly [A Time of Soldiers (1976)]
What the horrors of war are, no one can imagine. They are not
wounds and blood and fever, spotted and low, or dysentery,
chronic and acute, cold and heat and famine. They are
intoxication, drunken brutality, demoralisation and disorder on
the part of the inferior ... jealousies, meanness,
indifference, selfish brutality on the part of the superior.
Florence Nightingale [5 May 1855 letter, Forever
Yours, Florence Nightingale; Selected Letters (1989)]
To me war is like an aging actress — more and more
dangerous and less and less photogenic.
Robert Capa [Andrei Friedmann]
Two things greater than all things are
The first is love and the second war
And since we know not how war may prove
Heart of my heart, let us talk of love
J. Rudyard Kipling
For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Matthew Arnold [Dover Beach]
Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament.
It can be plausibly argued that the best possible contribution to
a world in turmoil is sitting quietly and
doing nothing; for only then will the ferment
and upheaval have a chance to settle.
paraphrase of Alan Wilson Watts [The Way of Zen
Who can make sense of a world like cloudy water?
Left alone and still, it becomes clear.
Should this stillness be maintained?
Moving hastily will surely cloud it again.
How then can one move and not become clouded?
Lao-Tzu [#15 Tao Te Ching]
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Edna Saint Vincent Millay [Dirge Without
You did much more than grow-up when you went away to war ... you
left as a man and returned as a human being.
paraphrase of Stephen Hunter
Those who have been immersed in the tragedy of massive death
during wartime, and who have faced it squarely, never allowing
their senses and feelings to become numbed and indifferent, have
emerged from their experiences with growth and humanness greater
than that achieved through almost any other means.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross [ch 5 Death: The Final
Stage of Growth (1975)]
You can't pick up a paper without seeing where the Marines were
landed to keep some nation from shooting each other, and if
necessary we shoot them to keep them from shooting each other.
William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (5 Jul 1925)
The only thing that's been a worse flop than the organization of
non-violence has been the organization of violence.
I don't know how a lot of these other nations have existed as
long as they have till we could get some of our people around and
show 'em how to be pure and good like us.
William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (27 Feb 1932)
The truth [about this ideological war] is in the millions of
innocent families who have suffered the most horrible tragedies
... [they were] people who understood what was happening in only
the vaguest way. The truth of this war lies buried with its
victims, with those who died, and with those who are consigned to
live in an oppressed silence, for now and for the coming
generations. A silence the world calls peace.
compiled by Ed Staff