The Story of Our Time. For Veteran James Moad, the story of WWI is inseparable from the story of contemporary history
Don't think for a moment I've forgotten. A hundred years cannot erase the images rendered by the soldier poets of that first Great War. Men who bled onto the page, each of them bearing witness to the arrogance of kaisers, kings and czars. They told the story of an absolute war that broke a continent, decimated a generation, and gave birth to the first modern genocide.
Those writers defied the myth of glory on the field of battle, rendered alive the truth of the trenches and the folly of Flanders Field. They helped us feel the wave of shell shock reverberate across the world and down through generations.
And yet it seems as if we've stopped listening to those voices of the past. Must we write these stories once again?
I've walked the blood soaked fields of Europe, the memory of the great squandering of men alive in the memorials and cemeteries. I've felt their presence, closed my eyes and listened to the voices of the dead: Prepare your fields for the next generation of memorials and cemeteries. Monuments to the ignorance and indifference of our time. For each war begets the next.
And so I write—one of many veteran writers today—lost in the shadow of conflict, this story of now, a century since that Great War engulfed the world. We, the people, our pens inked in the blood of soldiers and civilians, guilty and innocent, Muslim, Christian and Jew, the poor and privileged, young and old, the police-terrorist-white-black-brown-refugee-immigrant-protagonist-enemy-hero-villains everywhere. Us and them, you versus me, imagination struggling against fear. Nothing new to impart. The same old lies ignite into deception, burning inside the language of division as our insecurities explode into anger.
Are we to bleed another violent chapter onto the pages of history, a war story at home and abroad? Must we surrender to the fisted calls for retribution, weapons and walls—suppress, invade, persecute and destroy? Is this to be the story of our time, our children's children recounting these days in decades to come? What will they say of us? That we failed to imagine the consequences? Couldn't recall or see what the dead have taught us? No. Together, we must write a new story. A story where wisdom guides us in the face of uncertainty, one of courage in the face of condemnation, a foundation for tomorrow where we heed the voices of the past—a story to guide generations to come. This MUST be the story of our time.
J.A. Moad II is former Air Force pilot with over 100 combat sorties in the C-130. He served as an English Professor at the United States Air Force Academy and continues to serve as a fiction editor and blogger for their international journal, War, Literature, & the Arts (WLA). His short stories, poetry and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including winning the 2014 Consequence Magazine Fiction Award. In addition to writing, he has performed on stage at the Library of Congress and The Guthrie Theater as part of The Telling Project -Giving Voice to the Veteran experience. He performed a play he wrote, Outside Paducah - The Wars at Home in November, 2016 in Minneapolis, MN. He currently resides in Northfield, MN, and is busy editing a novel about an American military in a not too-distant future.