Kevin G Hare

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Passage of Right

I huddle in the mud.  All around me projectiles of death sear the air.  Men scream about me and men die, and scream no more.  I smell dirt.  I hear metal clanging and a continuous thundering that echoes in my ears and makes them hurt.  I feel cold and alone.  My own hands barely hold my weapon. The cold steel, so callous and unforgiving, as I could only hope to be.  I fear to kill and I fear to be killed more but those are words I hold under my breath for I also fear to be labelled a coward.

The battle is thick and merciless.  They press us persistently and I have come to believe their tactic is to strain our hopes until we believe our efforts are futile.  I believe their tactic is working.  Our energies are taxed and I have watched many men fall because their hope had eluded them.  The sense to continue seems mute to me and I can think of nothing but to run into the dark and never return.

Yet still I sit, desperate to move but the rain washes not the turmoil within me.  How is it my nature that I cannot abandon mercy nor can I forsake my soul to claim another’s in the name of patriotism?  My heart has always been that of peace yet I am thrust into this blood shedding campaign not of my doing.

There is a scream above me.  A moment later, a man falls and his body splashes filth and staining blood upon me.  I turn my head and raise my arm to block the spray but it still gets me.  It is inescapable.  His uniform is the same as my own but I know him not.  Does this make him my kin?  We are countrymen and I recognize that the title carries with it a bond of brotherhood but what of the men I am asked to slaughter?  We also are men of the Earth.  We have families, homes and friends to share good times and bad.  This also is a brotherhood.  But it is not one recognized by our countries’ leaders.  Their actions are determined by their political advancements.  Wars are started over who wants more or who wronged whom and we are played as game pieces and fed rights of freedom as motivation.

Are there no implications of morality?  When we are young we are taught that killing is wrong.  As we grow we learn that killing is sometimes necessary and when we are men we are sent to war to kill. How can we remain in accord with the principles of right conduct when we are a society that contradicts our own lessons?  I fear that some lessons are never learned by some, and some habits are never corrected with age.  Boys, not men, run our countries.  Boys who demand the attention of the public eye and lust for power over others.  They never outgrow the misguided pride of youth that tells a boy to strike back and strike hard to ensure his place in the eyes of his friends.  They learn not through honour.  Honour has not been taught yet, nor has it been learned by losing it.

Here I speak of honour while I slouch in the mud and staining crimson filth, unable to muster enough of my own to fight alongside my dying countrymen.  How do they do it?  What drives them so, to abandon all sense of morality to kill or be killed?  How do they spur that tiny flicker of courage that finally allows them to run into the fray so recklessly?  They run with weapon held high with the absolute confidence that they will kill someone, anyone, for ultimately those they kill are faceless, nameless and therefore soulless creatures that must be beaten down for the good of all.

It is this mud, this filth around me.  I cannot stand it.  It holds me, binds my legs and wraps my body in a void of confusion.  What purpose does it serve to die on a field of battle?  Many believe it is an honourable death.  I don’t see how death of any sort is honourable.  It is the end of something that had purpose.  Perhaps it brings comfort for the families to believe their loved one died a “good death”.

The sound of a wail from a dying man conveys neither pride nor hint of a good death.  Like those I hear about me now.  Men clashing together each trying to outmatch the other with only hate between them, a hate that exists because someone told them to hate.  Only one though will have the shell of his body torn or penetrated to the point of death and the other runs off to repeat the morbid rhythm.  There is only pain and torment in those wails of a life coming to end, or a life released from the torture of living?  The history of any one of those men may have been spent on the torture of others in some way for his own deluded entertainment.  Within his chest may have beaten a sorrowfully longing heart that knew no other purpose.  Don’t we all face the same grim end then as surely we all have found some meagre pleasure in the belittling of some other poorer soul?  Never have I admitted to perfection in my attributes nor do I believe I possess qualities of such miscreant nature that goes beyond redemption.  But my attributes I question.

Here in the mud I contemplate my own history and future.  The choices I have made that have brought me profit or disadvantage.  Never knowing at that time which outcome any choice will bring, not having the wit to anticipate one.  Did my choices bring me here, to this day?  Did some otherworldly force decide I needed to be here?  What have I to learn from this?

The battle roars nearer.  The ringing thunder shakes the very ground beneath me.  Men scream and men die.  Perhaps there is justification in that.  Perhaps that is the purpose of all things.  Life is inevitable and cannot exist without the inevitability of death.  I revere in life that there is but to live or die.  If I have lived well then so may I die well.  Whether death comes to me here on this ground or another and if the fates may decide that outcome, the choice remains with me to live in battle fighting with my countrymen or to die here huddling in the mud.

Here in battle patriotism matters not, nor does fighting for freedom.  Here in the thick of it, I will fight to survive as I have done since I was born, as my fathers did before me.

My heart finds attune with the thunder.  I feel warmth in my limbs and with it the strength to lift the tool I shall use to remain alive.  I breathe deep and the air smells clean.  I look around and I see the same here as I do at my home, life struggling to continue and energies flowing this way and that.

Know this, kinsmen, for all who may read this passage.  I will stand, I will fight, and I may die.  But I will find comfort that I have lived well and I will die a good death.