Dec 5, 2013
Going Beyond the Tale of a Boy and His Horse
Posted on Feb 29, 2012
By Adam Hochschild, TomDispatch
There was nothing easy about any of this. Draft refusers were mocked and jeered (mobs threw rotten eggs at them when given the chance), jailed under harsh conditions, and lost the right to vote for five years. But with war’s end, in a devastated country mourning its losses and wondering what could possibly justify that four-year slaughter, many people came to feel differently about the resisters. More than half a dozen were eventually elected to the House of Commons and the journalist Morel became the Labour Party’s chief Parliamentary spokesperson on foreign affairs. Thirty years after the Armistice, a trade unionist named Arthur Creech Jones, who had spent two and a half years in prison as a war resister, was appointed to the British cabinet.
The bravery of such men and women in speaking their minds on one of the great questions of the age cost them dearly: in public scorn, prison terms, divided families, lost friends and jobs. And yet they are largely forgotten today at a moment when resistance to pointless wars should be celebrated. Instead we almost always tend to celebrate those who fight wars—win or lose—rather than those who oppose them.
It’s not just the films and TV shows we watch, but the monuments and museums we build. No wonder, as General Omar Bradley once said, that we “know more about war than we know about peace.” We tend to think of wars as occasions for heroism, and in a narrow, simple sense they can be. But a larger heroism, sorely lacking in Washington this last decade, lies in daring to think through whether a war is worth fighting at all. In looking for lessons in wars past, there’s a much deeper story to be told than that of a boy and his horse.
Adam Hochschild is the author of “King Leopold’s Ghost” and “Bury the Chains,” among other works. His latest bestselling book, “To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), focuses on the antiwar critics of World War I. Now available in paperback, it is a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Hochschild discusses the largely untold stories of those in England who opposed involvement in World War I and the message they offer for our own time, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
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Copyright 2012 Adam Hochschild
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