Thursday, May 19, 2005

Remember this, you masters of war

I know, I know...Hollywood screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo was a dirty, rotten commie. But he wrote the greatest antiwar novel ever — Johnny Got His Gun.

In summer of 1970, I was a 16-year-old Young Republican. Then this punctuation-deficient piece of lefty propaganda somehow got into my hands. It shook me to my core. Johnny Got His Gun was one of three or four bits of writing that turned me into an anarchist peacenik. It’s not just a novel. It’s a concussion device.

Each year, as we approach Memorial Day, I pick up Trumbo’s book. I urge you to find a copy and read it. Or reread it. Then pass it on.

Johnny Got His Gun closes with what is one of the most powerful antiwar, anti-state manifestoes ever written:

“If you make a war if there are guns to be aimed if there are bullets to be fired if there are men to be killed they will not be us. They will not be us the guys who grow wheat and turn it into food the guys who make clothes and paper and houses and tiles the guys who build dams and power plants and string the long moaning high tension wires the guys who crack crude oil down into a dozen different parts who make light globes and sewing machines and shovels and automobiles and airplanes and tanks and guns oh no it will not be us who die. It will be you.

“It will be you — you who urge us on to battle you who incite us against ourselves you who would have one cobbler kill another cobbler you who would have one man who works kill another man who works you who would have one human being who wants only to live kill another human being who wants only to live. Remember this. Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots you fierce ones you spawners of hate you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives.

“We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.

“Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility in security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.”


At 7:36 AM, Blogger psyren said...

wow... i totaly see your angle dude.....

At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the book years and years ago, but it comes to mind every now and then. I couldn't have come up with this quote out of the blue, but it surely is powerful. Thanks for the reminder.

My copy of the book is deep in a box in storage--somewhere.

At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the website for the new movie which is more closely based on the book than the original 1971 film version was.


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