A Powerful Beginning
Pending passage of comprehensive examinations, I’m on to my dissertation. Though not technically approved yet, my plan is to write a piece for chamber orchestra with narrator, 4 singers, and electronics (likely restricted to recorded readings and possibly some sort of radio transmission – still sorting this all out, of course). The subject of the piece is the universality of war, and the plan is to have the first movement deal with war games that children play, the second movement with letters from war, and the third with last letters and a battle scene of sorts.
I’m just in the beginning phase of trying to locate sources and my first evening’s research landed one true gem:
Andrew Carroll. War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars – pg. 318-319
November 3, 1945 – Letter from Sgt. Richard Leonard to Arlene Bahr
War is all phony in the first place – I know that now. It’s just the vested economic, political, and military leaders of the world fighting for personal prestige and fortunes at the expense of their citizens. I believe that common people the world over share the same dreams of peace and security. I mixed quite thoroughly with German POW’s, and now the Japs. I’ve been to their homes for dinner and crowded into streetcars with them – and I find them as human as any people I’ve seen.
I don’t think I’ve been taken in too easily. I’m pretty skeptical by nature, but who am I supposed to hate? Can I hate the boy who ran along side my train window for 50 yards to pay me for a pack of cigarettes that I had sold him just before the train left the station? Can I hate the old man who took us to his home for dinner and made us accept his family heirlooms for souvenirs? Can I hate the kids that run up and throw their arms around me in the street? Or a Jap truck driver who went miles out of his way to drive me home one night? Or the little girl (about 4) who ran up to me and gave me her one and only doll for a present? My answer is that I can’t. This may all be a big show of phony hospitality, but if it is the players are all expertly rehearsed. Personally I don’t believe they could fake the basic emotions with such perfection. I could be awfully wrong, but I have tremendous confidence in the common man of any country and the Jap is no exception.
It would have been easy for me to hate blindly. I hated their guts when they killed my brother a year ago, but hate leads only to more hate and it’s only if we can get together – work and live together – and develop confidence in each other that there is any hope of a better tomorrow. Sure, we’ve go to occupy their country – watch them – but at the same time we’ve got to help them and do everything possible to reconstruct them as a peace loving nation. It can and must be done through the common man, by elimination of imperialistic industrialists. They are the ones I hate, not the Jap who is farming or working for his family security – not even the ones who sank my brother’s submarine. They were just the pawns in the big game, it is the big men at the top in industry, trade, politics, and the military that we must hate and punish – and eliminate. Our building for a better world must begin at the bottom with you, me, and ordinary people all over the world. Capitalism is fine if the people have sufficient checks on the bosses – it can and does work well in our country, but we must work from here on to see that the interests of capital and humanity are the same, not merely manifestations of the financial lust of a greedy minority.
Whoa, babe, it’s taps time. Sorry the liter has been so long, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately and had to share my conclusions with someone.
Thanks for the picture.
Be good, and write some more,
I have a feeling that this project is going to be difficult and incredibly rewarding. Moreover, I get the sense that it is going to – in some way, however big or small – change me. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting way to begin.