So many good things to create and all that genius and inventiveness has gone to creating things of war: things of death and pain and destruction. Weapons of mass regrets. Giant metallic animals of empty eyes, gulping the souls of innocent lives, young spirits who started the dance as a game, as a call to be more, to serve, to give, to live adventures dreamed long ago, when Lego tanks and sky rockets produced no blood, and finger guns only killed for a minute or so and dying was actually fun, as hearts were held with tiny hands, and bodies gracefully fell in a dramatic make-believe slow motion, as the “ohs” and the “ahs” escaped plum, pink lips, and breaths went and came so fast in a silent laugh that there was no way you could be really afraid of death.
I’d like to say there was no beauty at the war museum. But there was. As that of those dried roses found in old books now and then. There was the lingering beauty of all those lives, lost to nothing. The lives lost to ideals and hopes. The lives betrayed by whatever, because war is always a betrayal, that only becomes bearable when you paint it pink with songs, and poems, and letters from the field to a wide-eye fiancé waiting at home. Each of those lives was beautiful, in their own way, even in their own madness and fear and hatred and bravery. Each one was cut short too soon, too harshly, like a daisy brought down by an axe. And all those dreams that never came to pass; the children that never were to be born; the Sunday afternoons in the backyard, sipping tea and eating cakes which were never enjoyed again, grant a lingering, sad beauty to each pistol and plane and Russian tank and Nazi cap and Victoria medal and mannequin standing in a fake trench -a stand in for so much pain, hesitation, anger, courage, slavery and liberation, that one wonders how simple plastic can hold so much humanity without exploding into a thousand pieces.
There was grandeur at the war museum, of course. Planes so big that you had to move your head from side to side to see them all. Trucks which resembled train coaches; tanks that were like monsters -leviathans, objects of awe which, had they been white and at sea, could have inspired a story with a one-legged Ishmael obsessively sailing the seas in search of revenge. There were also tears. A friend finding the image of a dead comrade-in-arms exhibited behind a glass. A limping ex-warrior recognizing this and that, what it felt to jump into the air with massive equipment on his back, and the name of the jeep he once drove, and the silly routine of washing his face at night, to smear it with camouflage paint the next day. And yet, he was there. Wrinkle, twisted, half-beaten, but there. Alive where other were not. Walking with wife, child and friends among the ghosts. Becoming the channel of their songs, of their stories, of the lessons they want -need- all of us to know. Voicing the prayer which lighted in all hearts that day, like flames passed from one candle to the next.
Let the war museum become akin to the dinosaur hall of the natural history home. Something from a past, long gone, so lost in history that only a few remains can explain what can never be lived again. A resting place celebrating the extinction of something for which the world has no longer a hunger, need or place.