War and peace

On this one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, the signs are everywhere that while the people might remember the horrors and heroics of the past, some leaders seem to be forgetting. How else to explain the actions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is fighting the Kurds, Russian President Vladimir Putin who overran Crimea and portions of Ukraine, and U.S. President Donald Trump who is at war with everyone. In Paris this weekend, only French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed any sign of good grace. Their meeting – in the same rail car used to sign the documents that ended the First World War as well as the fall of France during the Second World War – was more than just symbolic.

As a proud son of Scotland, my ancestors fought a few times against their English rulers. Every time the Scots rose up, the result was always the same. The clans could not remain united, the Scottish rebels eventually lost, and remained under England’s heel. The most recent film to attest to those repetitive uprisings is Outlaw King. The movie, which has just begun streaming on Netflix, tells of Robert the Bruce who followed William Wallace whose story was told in Braveheart.

At least the players in Outlaw King did not wear the kilt, as they did in Braveheart, a form of dress not used until several centuries later. But Mel Gibson’s speech to his men was better by far than Chris Pine’s in Outlaw King. Where Pine spoke of fighting for whatever reason, Gibson waxed about how the English “may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom.”

Still, after the Scots played out their last rebellion under Bonnie Prince Charlie, they did lose their freedom. That’s why war will always be with us. There will forever be someone who is power hungry, vengeful, or seeking to eliminate some minority in their midst. So, while we might remember the past, we must also be ready for the future.

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