Recalling John’s Life

I often find that I feel closer to one of my previous lives than others at any given time.

I’d been thinking about Phil more recently, because at least in him I see something of a way forward for me.  I have similar skills, talents, and interests and I feel I could probably achieve similar success if I really apply some discipline to my work.

But ever since I had the chance urge to do a bit more work tracing John’s life, I’ve been thinking about him more and more and I have to say that it’s often a much more desolate feeling when I think about his life.

There is a longing there, a deep longing that I know can never be satisfied, to go back to the home I left behind all those years ago.  And I might even know now where he was born, and I might even be able to spend the night in the same building, but the people I left behind there in that life so long ago are long gone, first moved to other towns in the 1890s, then died of old age, disease, or war in the intervening years.  I can go back, but I know it will be a house full of strangers when I get there and whether or not any of the people I knew in that life have come back to me, I can’t say.

I have an inkling that maybe my fiance and my father were there, albeit in different roles.  But if they were, neither of them remember anything and even if they do appear to remember something when we visit, how can any of us tell if they’re remembering it spontaneously or remembering it because I put it in their heads?

And I can go to Ypres and Houplines, but all I can really do there is say my goodbyes to people who probably reincarnated along with me, had full lives after the war, then died of old age and are probably on their second or third postwar life now.  Those few who remember usually only have a vague sense that they were there.  I’ve only met one other reincarnated Tommy who has any clue as to who he was, and he was already career military by 1914; I’ve yet to meet anyone else from Kitchener’s Army who knows so much as their name, rank, and serial in this life.

And I can never undo, unsee, and unfeel what happened 99 years ago.  It left a dark stain on me that was with me throughout my previous life and carried into this one and though I’m back to where I can feel love, happiness, and joy again, now and then something will remind me of that spring in Ypres and I’ll be back to longing for the life John knew before the war.

The world now totters on the edge of another major war.  I hear they’re trying to make it possible for transfolk to serve, too, which means I could be drafted if the elites of this world decide a total war between superpowers is in the cards.  Already, 2014 is looking so much like 1914 and I’m terrified.  I read the news and it reminds me of the rumblings we ignored from Serbia, Russia, Germany, and Austro-Hungary during that blissful spring of 1914.  Just like before, everyone goes about their daily lives trying not to think about it, even as Ukraine, Russia, China, North Korea, Japan, the US, and the various powers of the EU (the ultimate cordial entente if there ever was one) all brace for war.  Ships, jets, soldiers, and missiles are massing everywhere and all it will take is one careless prod by a superpower to send the world into another major war.

And through it all I wonder, why did I go to war when I had the choice in 1914?  Why didn’t I stay in Hereford picking hops, swilling beer, and courting Ann by the river?  And will I be able to stay here in Portland reading, writing, swilling beer, and courting my fiance by the river, or will my mind be made up for me by the draft board or by some battle that razes the city I live in?

I want it to be different this time around.  I want to say my goodbyes to John and Phil and live the life they couldn’t, a good life untainted by war, by fear, and by people who won’t let us be.  

Here We Go Again

North Korea just dropped the armistice.

A provocative adversary.  A series of entangling alliances.  A general detachment from reality within our own government…

If shots are fired, welcome to World War 3.  We’ve had too much intrigue with South Korea, China, and Japan for this to not draw the entire Pacific Rim into armed conflict, and when that happens the UN is definitely going to take sides, and they’ll pull the rest of the world in.  If they side against the US, this will be very bad, and it’s the kind of thing the radical theorists have been warning us about for decades: all of our meddling coming back to haunt us.

Remember too that Obama’s under pressure to take decisive action at North Korea, and people at home are getting restless about his policies (even us progressives aren’t too thrilled with his zeal for drone warfare right now).  He might see war as a welcome distraction, or even a PR coup for the Predator Drone, and if he does that means war will be inevitable.

If the President decided to properly unleash hell on North Korea, he wouldn’t need a single nuclear weapon to make it look like “War of the Worlds.”  But those images of a heavy-handed technocracy brutally routing an impoverished, backward country that can barely feed its army will come back to haunt us.  If you think our reputation in the world is bad now, just wait.

This is terribly bad, and I refuse to have anything to do with it.  I reject that embroiling wars of foreign intrigue are ever worthwhile and I refuse to enlist, and intend to register as a conscientious objector if it becomes necessary.

Please, reblog this post if you stand for letting the nations of China, Japan, North and South Korea, and Taiwan solve their own problems without any more of this colonialist nonsense from us.  We can still have peace, but we have to sacrifice our interests in those countries.  It will not hurt us greatly to do so and in the long run we will have gained a lot by not having embroiled ourselves in a conflict that was never ours to begin with.

A Thought…

This might help clarify a post I made earlier.  I don’t think I’ve ever really stated my personal beliefs on the way to peace.

My personal belief is that the surest way to peace is to encourage it as an individual decision to dedicate one’s life to discouraging a state of war.  That would include using non-lethal self defense techniques unless absolutely necessary and taking a pragmatic but restrained approach to firearm ownership and usage; voting only for politicians who stress peace and de-escalation as a policy priority; withdrawing from identity politics, nationalism, and extreme religious views permanently; adjusting your lifestyle in small ways that are mindful of the issues that lead to today’s biggest conflicts, such as reducing oil consumption;  and reaching others for the cause not by forcing their compliance through legislation and pressure, but by extending compassion, dignity, and fraternity to those who need it most.

If we show people that this can be a personal choice and a lifestyle rather than something that they have to be “for or against,” maybe more people will consider it and more people will strive for that.  It could be a movement that makes people feel good about doing it without pressuring them to conform.  This could restore empathy and compassion in a society that has some incredibly jaded ideas about emotional considerations.

This is why I feel that moral policing is wrong.  It sends the wrong message, that the way to conformity and peace is to “follow the leader.”  But how many leaders have we followed already, onto blood-soaked battlefields?  We don’t need leaders.  We need people who refuse to be led because they have a personal dedication to the cause of peace that they will defend with everything they have.  When you make a decision like that on an individual level, you will cherish it and you will always believe it is right.

You know, even though it took a much greater investment of courage in the war to keep going on the battlefield (so much that even the bravest men often couldn’t give it), when it came to the amount of courage you had to muster up front, the conscientious objectors had to really have a thicker spine than we did.  They were mercilessly taunted and most of us feared having our manhood, our courage, or our dedication to our king questioned more than we feared the bullets and shells.  Had we known what we were getting ourselves into, many of us would have saved ourselves that horror and found a legitimate reason to be elsewhere.  I was 38 at the time, and I went willingly. I could have easily waited another year and I would have been too old by the time the draft was instated in 1916.  But I let Lord Kitchener do my thinking for me.

If another world war breaks out, I’ll be a conchie this time.  I hope to help convince others to have the courage to do the same.

Anyone Notice…

That it’s getting harder and harder to use just a username online?

I’m not going to post many political discussions on this blog, but I feel like this is important because it strikes at the heart of what the Internet is all about, and it affects all of us in ways we have yet to fully understand.

More and more sites are asking for first and last names, which is easy enough; you can always tell them your legal name is Donkey McSpitfire and in most cases they can’t say it isn’t.

But a lot of sites are pushing for additional data like phone numbers, which are usually easily traced to a particular person. And FaceBook has had rounds of crackdowns on profiles that are characters or obvious pseudonyms.

Yes, you were never completely anonymous online unless you went through some serious hoops to make sure no one could track you. But you always had the ready option of not making it easy for people who take exception to your opinions to track you. Soon, we may not even have that luxury.

What happened to the good old days when you could create a Yahoo! account and post your real, honest opinion of a news story without worrying that a boss or family member will take exception to your opinions? I have a feeling the loss of anonymity is because the powers that be are scared of what being able to pass on information in relative anonymity can do.

Our finest hour, as The People, the Vox Populae, will not be to start a war, but to stop one before it happens.  To my mind, this has never happened in all the history of the world but let me tell you, if it was ever meant to happen, it’s in our age, right here, right now.

I say this as one who wishes dearly that we’d had this back in 1914.  Don’t make the same mistakes we made back then.  We could very well use it to make war, after all, just as the Serbs did when Gavrilo Princip opened up on Franz Ferdinand’s limousine.   But that wasn’t the right nor clever thing to do.  That single shot killed me and millions of others needlessly.  We must resist the temptation to launch a violent coup because the Powers that Be will always find a way to use violence to their own advantage.  Every war is an opportunity for a banker or a weapons dealer to make money, and who do you think pays the politician’s salaries?

I have a chance to live to see a generation that does it right, that uses its loud and powerful voice alone to stop a war before it begins.  But in order to do so, we may have to make ourselves harder to track down, because I guarantee, when our rights are exercised, they will try to take them away.  The right to speak freely and anonymously is a power that we could use to change the course of history forever.

We can’t lose this power. Not yet. Not if The People are still waiting for our finest hour. We need to make sure that Google, Yahoo, and all these other Internet giants know that we cherish the right to keep our privacy.

Whenever you can, refuse to provide information. If you can get away with it, provide a false name. Don’t give away who you are unless you have to, or create a public account that you can get away with saying things from.


Something they never tell you about past life memories is how they can change you.

Before I had that catastrophic memory of waiting for the whizz-bang that probably killed me, I was a very different sort of person.

I owned a gun and didn’t think much of using it in a self-defense capacity.  In fact I had a bit of a mean streak and kind of hoped I would have to use it so I could get a reputation as someone you didn’t mess with.

I didn’t really give much mind to war even though I was theoretically against the ones currently going on.  As far as the exact emotional and physical toll that nearly wiped parts of France and Belgium off the map, it didn’t really register.  The war was something that happened a long time ago, that only existed in highly-idealized Hollywood productions or grainy photos in dusty albums.  The last veterans of that war have all died off and so, I assumed, had the memory of what really happened.

Just a taste of what those soldiers went through was like a sharp kick in the groin.  I don’t think I fully recovered from the initial shock of the few brief slivers I saw, or of finding a grave that is very likely my own.

I no longer own a gun, nor do I want anything to do with them.  I’m going to stay out of gun politics but on a personal level, my disgust with guns has never been higher.

I also find I don’t get angry at people nearly as often, and I find that the idea of killing someone for any reason suddenly has its shock once again.  I don’t want to make people suffer or even see them suffer any more.  That was part of a life I had lived recklessly without regard to the other person involved, and I’m very sorry I ever allowed myself to think that way.

I used to be a lot more involved in fringe political activism.  Not so very long ago I was getting deep into Occupy and the Cascadia Independence movement, fully expecting things to boil over into a full-blown revolution within a decade.  While I still think independence for this region would be a good thing over all, I’ve dropped out of the activist culture completely.  I don’t want to waste another life on a war that might do more harm than good; if I joined the British Army in the name of “King and Country” in a previous life, but I had no way of knowing the hell that would follow in the next century.  What we started in France in 1914 never really ended; the entire 20th century and the first decades of the 21st have been a constant swing between extreme ideologies and the destabilization of nearly every nation on earth. 

I’m returning to my own advice I gave myself years ago: nations rise and fall, but love is the true measure of all things.

Love one another.  And for everyone’s sake, never forget what we lost between 1914 and 1918.  I certainly won’t.