“Why Do You Love War?”
My eldest son, at eight years old, asked me this the other day. I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond, since war is an ugly thing to love. He had the perfect reason to ask me, though. I write historical fiction with a leaning towards military history, something I fell in love with long ago. So, I am always reading about war or writing about war.
Let me make it plain that I am not a fan nor a lover of war. In fact, as I read more about war and the cruel ways humans conceive of ways to kill other humans, I hope for no wars. As a student of history, however, humans are fallible, greedy, foolish, and arrogant, thus there will always be war.
Back to the question. I don’t love war, but why am I so fascinated by it? For a while, I have worked through this myself. It used to just be history that I loved, but I seemed to gravitate towards the war years. Why? I decided that if I were to study history it would be to prevent the repeat of the numerous mistakes made by humankind. In studying the military and the wars fought, these mistakes are ever more apparent.
Wars show the best and worst of people. In these military conflicts, you find war crimes and massacres, genocide, enslavement, and other atrocities. You also find selflessness, honor, respect, humanity, and loyalty. As one watches “Band of Brothers” or “Saving Private Ryan,” or even “Gladiator,” one can witness the bond formed between soldiers and the risks they take for one another.
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Is this why I enjoy studying military history or why I enjoy writing about it? I’m not sure, but I do find it reassuring that in the ugliness of war there is something other than bloodshed and horrors. From what I’ve read and heard, if a veteran had the opportunity to go back into the service they would. Not for war’s sake, but for the brotherhood.
So, I suppose while I do not love war, I love the stories that can come out of these conflicts. It seems as though every conflict produces works of literature regarding it, and each one you find these stories that range all along the spectrum. Maybe it is something that doesn’t really have an easy way to explain it, but for this writer, it is all I can do.