Because as this past Saturday, June 28, 2014, was the 100-year anniversary of the murder that detonated World War I, there was a lot of commentary over the weekend on the devastating repercussions of that event, how they played out a hundred years ago and how they continue to play out on the map of our world to this day. And so I thought I'd add my commentary as well.
I know some wars are easier to understand than others; World War II, for example: very much a war of actions bringing on equal and opposite reactions. But I've always had a hard time wrapping my head around World War I.
I mean, the heir to the throne of the Austria-Hungarian Empire is murdered in Serbia by a youngster with a hand gun so Russia reacts to the shooting by declaring war on its former buddy Germany, which reacts to Russia by invading Belgium and France?
I know there were also treaties and alliances and failed diplomacy and political and regional and historical conflicts in play, but even when it's laid out for me I have a hard time connecting the dots: one man kill another and the whole world ends up in flames?
And so I have a hard time seeing the historical context; when I think of World War I all I can see are images from a horror movie.
I see a patrol of young British soldiers tentatively making their way through a dark, burned-out French forest , when through the fog bursts a unit of German flame-throwers in long coats, helmets and gas masks, fuel cannisters of liquid fuel strapped to their backs, looking to the screaming terrified soldiers like fire-shooting demons from hell.
I see a group of French soldiers making their way east when through the smoke of the cannons creeps a different kind of smoke with a greenish tint. Thinking this is some smoke screen set off by the enemy to distract them, the French soldiers rush into the deadly chlorine gas never living to learn that they were the first victims of gas warfare.
I see American soldiers who've been standing for days in trenches ankle-deep in filthy stagnant water with nowhere to move suddenly hearing the bell that signifies a mustard gas attack and seeing the yellow-brown cloud coming at them, closer, closer, closer...
I see a unit of German soldiers watching, terrified, as a British armoured tank, the first they've ever seen, coming at them like some unstoppable mechanical monster.
I see surreal destroyed landscapes, No Man's land, trenches and barbed wired and bodies and smoke and fire and poisoned air.
And I see the Douaumont Ossuary, a 150-foot high bullet-shaped silo at Douaumont, France, which is filled with the bones of 130,000 unknown French and German soldiers who fell at the battle of Verdun.
I know that weapons are invented to use by armies to fight wars. But to me there's just something particularly barbaric about the weapons of World War I. Flame-throwers. Poisoned Gas.
Do you ever wonder what kind of human beings would spend their God-given gifts thinking up and creating such things?