“Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone
Long time ago?”
I like graveyards. Tired, old graveyards best. They are quiet, serene, well sculpted and orderly. There usually aren’t any crowds in graveyards. You can wander, unhurried, amid the trees, stones and flowers and reflect without interruption on life, death, passion and indifference, or nothing at all.
All that remains of us after a life filled with hurrying ambition, toil and strife, success and failure is to be found in the graveyard. A plot of ground about the size of a coffee table and a few words carved on a stone. Those words on stone are the most enduring thing most of us will have to show for our lives. They will outlast our houses, cars, TVs and computers. All of our friends will join us under the grass long before those words are worn off by the wind and rain. And what do they say, those words? What triumph or success, what achievement do they record?
He made a lot of money?
He was really good-looking?
He had a boss car?
She had a lot of shoes?
She was a size__?
When the stone is placed over your mortal remains it will record what you were;
Beloved Father-Mother-Son-Daughter, Loving Wife-Husband-Friend.
The last thing the world knows of us is usually our place in the family we were born in and the one we made. Just about everything else is forgotten save by those we meant something to.
I started out to use the verses of a song; “Where have all the flowers gone?” as topics for several essays, loosely responding to each verses question in the order they occur in the song.
Some of them I’m happy with, at least one I will probably delete and rewrite; I think I ran right off the road with it.
The song is an anti-war song, written in the early fifties by Pete Seeger who took the first three verses from a Russian folk song. He added the phrases; ‘Long time passing’ and ‘Long time ago.’ The message, as in all anti-war songs, is the futility of war.
I’ve always felt that talking about the ‘Futility of War’ is the same as discussing the ‘Futility of Cancer.’ The thing is, neither War or Cancer are futile, they are both very effective. Adolph Hitler wanted more ‘Living Space’ for Germany and went to war to get it. In a year he’d acquired France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Poland and a large part of North Africa. He paused then, the way Cancer does sometimes, before moving on to his next ambition; Russia. In a few months over one-third of Russia was in his grip, then he was stopped, and after three years of blood and sacrifice, was driven back into Germany, and finally destroyed.
All of Europe went into remission, there was no trace of Hitler found anywhere on the whole continent. Except for the grave yards.
Over six-million German soldiers, airmen and sailors lie in graves scattered from Moscow in the east, to Cherbourg in the west, Tripoli to Oslo. The Mediterranean, the North and South Atlantic, the English Channel, even the Pacific hold German sailors. The only country that has scattered its dead as far and wide is the United States.
One to conquer, one to liberate.
The same ground covers them both, the same waves roll eternally over them.
Neither the dirt nor the sea care if your cause was just or evil. They will cover you.
I think you could justly call France the graveyard of Europe. I’ve never added the numbers up, but it seems that more armies have fought back and forth across France than any other piece of land, at least in Europe. They have some beautiful grave yards in France. The prettiest, I think, are the cemeteries for the American dead in Normandy. Thousands of crosses and Stars of David laid out in perfect symmetry on the bluffs overlooking the beaches that so many brave young men never left.
Were their deaths futile?
The people of Normandy don’t think so. They cherish the memory of the soldiers who fought to set them free, and demanded nothing in return but a place to lay their dead.
They tend the grounds, greet the visitors and plant flowers on the graves.
For the young girls to pick.
“Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers everyone
When will they ever learn
When will they ever learn?”