12 November 2012

On Veteran's Day

"Dedicated to the Deserters of All Wars"
Nikolaus Kernbach, Stuttgart, Germany 2007.

 For the Unknown Deserters 
 Designed by Mehmet Aksoy, Potsdam Germany (1989).

Memorial to Unknown Deserters
Hannah Stuetz Menzel (1989/2005), Ulm, Germany.

I am not a pacifist. But I also suspect that most wars are unnecessary and doubt that even the truly unavoidable ones are justifiable. So, on this day when we are meant to be honoring Veterans - those given honorific status for having fought in wars - I want to note some discordant memorials. These all are in Germany. And there, of course, many people have a deep sense that their country perpetrated an especially heinous war. It is difficult not to agree. But, as the saying goes, 'He who is without sin should cast the first stone.' Do we need to feel the need to atone for crimes on the scale of the Nazis in order to wonder whether those who simply turn and walk away might not be taking an heroic stance?
P.S.: I was prompted to track down these memorials - and several others - by reading James Scott. 2012. Two Cheers for Anarchism. Princeton UP. Overall, the book is not as provocative as I'd anticipated. But it raises a set of smart questions.

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