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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Dying

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - roughly, "it is right and sweet to die for your country".

This is the sort of rubbish that middle-aged politicians and writers love. Wrap yourselves in the flag, boys, and go down humming "God Save The Queen". It makes for good funerary eulogies, and great movie endings, with swelling violins and crimson sunsets.

The reality of death in combat is quite different. It's not sweet. It's painful, frightening, and it never seems "right".  The pretty Latin words are a self-serving sop to the politicians, and an enamelled comfort to the bereaved, but they serve no purpose to the folks who do the dying.

Save, perhaps, salt in the wound.

The real reason death is worth risking, and worth embracing, is proximate loyalty. It's the desire, and the need, which is almost sacred, not to let down those who fight by your side.

When everything narrows down to a compressed vortex of terror, girded about by steel and flame, all of the abstract concepts of country, Mom, apple pie, and even freedom go by the boards.

From "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic" comes the line, "...let us die to make men free". Hogwash.

The only thing worth dying for is the hand stretched out to you, in mute appeal, from a comrade whose foibles you know better than you do your own, and whose loss would make the world unimaginable.

The only thing worth dying for is LOVE.

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