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Samuel Bernard: A pipe dream of peace

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Samuel Bernard
Smoke

Pa, Ma, and my sister Louise were discussing at supper the recent happenings of the war.

“I tell you,” continued Pa, “Germany wants us to get into the fray, because then we’d need for ourselves all the ammunition we make and would stop exporting it to England or Russia. Our navy and army is a joke in comparison with the huge army and navy of Germany.”

“But does not Germany consider our possibilities?” asked sister Louise. “Would we not in casting our lot with the allies make certain the defeat of Germany?”

“Well,” Pa replied, “a girl of your age shouldn’t bother your head about the possible solution of these world problems. They are properly handled by men of wide information and experience in national and international affairs, men who possess great wisdom – ”

“They are properly handled by men who possess great wisdom?” mother interrupted. “One would suppose that men possessed of great wisdom would know of a less devilish way of settling an argument than by setting one band of innocent men to murder with the most deadly weapons they can conceive another band of equally innocent men. What do they settle when they drench the fields with the blood of the dear boys of the nation? These wise men don’t want us mothers to have a voice in the government, for well they know we wouldn’t put up with having our sons sent as cattle to the slaughter pen. You talk about your wise men! Could women have done worse?”

There was silence.

Supper over, I took my pipe from the mantelpiece, filled it with tobacco, lit it and sat down, puffing liberally….There she stood….What a wonderful creature of a great Creator!…How gracious and fascinating!…What great passionate attraction,…a being of absolute perfection….Yet she looks dejected. She is crying as if she were as help less as a child. Her golden hair is disheveled. Her clothes are torn to shreds. She is shedding bitter tears, which mix with the blood running so freely from her bruised body.

I wanted to get near her, but I couldn’t move.

“Who are you?” I murmured in amazement.

“So you, you also have forgotten me.”…

“Pray tell me who – …Ah! Goddess of Liberty!”

“‘Goddess of Liberty!'” she repeated in a voice of extreme sadness. “A Goddess once was I to many. For liberty they cheerfully endured great hardships. Nay, for me, for liberty, they said they would gladly give their very lives. Then they were leaders in world progress. Then they worked for the betterment and happiness of themselves and their brothers in all lands. Now you see them determined to kill, to slaughter their brothers and comrades. You see them as cattle, following blindly their military leaders to their own ruin. What do these military leaders think they will settle by destroying what it has taken ages to build, and by killing off the best manhood, leaving the feeble to be the fathers of the future generation? If only those responsible for this hell would be the sacrifice! What human anguish, big crops of cripples, big crops of widows, the loser and winner will have alike!

“And now, my last hope: this great nation! Imbued with my spirit, the country where I still exist, the land of liberty, the only ray of hope to the children of all mankind, here where one can still enjoy the happiness of peace and where all should realize the horrors of war! The men who control the affairs of this great and happy nation in these dark hours, the leaders; shall they show a humane way to settle differences? Or are they willing to follow the others on the road that can only lead to the cursed inferno?”…

…”Dear, what is the matter?” mother insisted.

“What! Were you crying?” father asked.

“What is this?” asked sister Louise, looking at me surprised.

“I dreamed,” I stammered brokenly, “just a pipe dream, I guess.”

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