Thursday, April 7, 2011

King George, Libya and Elmwood

I took the long way around my beloved Elmwood on the way from Hartford Hospital to my mother’s house, looking to bypass the snarled rush hour traffic crawling from light to light along New Britain Avenue. Along the way, I ran into a delay from a congregation of police cars too numerous to be anything short of grave situation. The local news carried the shooting in Elmwood as its lead story.These days I often think a portion of the Irishman Yeat’s poem that reads,

My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.

In my mind, I always replace Kiltartan with Elmwood, and wonder what battles around the world are worth a drop of the blood of my neighbors. Canvassing the accounts of great villainy in far off Libya, the spoken words of a King whose eloquence in trying times of epic proportions was made more illustrious by a personal history of stammering applied equally then as today, and equally relevant to the siege of Misurata as to the siege of Abbotsford Avenue:

We have been forced into a conflict, for we are called, with our allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilized order in the world.

I care for the victims of both sieges, but Abbotsford is more familiar to me. I remember a girl in my class at Conard who was a great beauty, and she lived on one the two streets on the other side of Piper Brook still a part of West Hartford. The southeastern point of our town was the home of the lowest of incomes, but every bit as dignified as any other classmate of mine. I can remember how she stood out in my mind as the rose of Elmwood, semi-sequestered by a black ocean of asphalt in front of Caldor’s that bled into the cement banks of Piper Brook like an urban moat between me and her. One day I rode the bus with her all the way to the end of the line just to talk a while longer. The walk back to Corbin’s Corner seemed a small price for the privilege of her company. I can certainly relate to a young man driven by desire to go out of his way to seek the favor of a young woman.
So, the matter of a gang of boys, too foolish to merit a title of adulthood, and who may never grow to be true men, affects me personally. I cherish such memories of my late childhood, and the degree to which Abbotsford causes me to recall recent events in place of more pleasant times is a cause of some distress. Mindful that the current student body at my alma mater is, of course, the future fellow alumnae of a great tradition, I wish to address you all

with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself.

You see, the principle that good King George VI spoke of, out of duty to nation that defined his being, with no great affection for the task of putting one’s feelings on public display, is the same that calls me to draft this text.

Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right, and if this principle were established through the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole … Commonwealth of nations would be in danger.

But far more than this, the peoples of the world would be kept in bondage of fear, and all hopes of settled peace and of the security, of justice and liberty, among nations, would be ended.

How sad to read in wild wonder of accounts of so many held in the bondage of fear in far off lands and then know that the same is true in your own backyard. Can the count of the victims be the sole driver of whom we should rally to defend and of whom we should refrain from defending? If so, I am sure the masses of those deprived of any sense of security in the face of the onslaught of selfish brutality are greater here in our own country than the tallies of even those besieged by an entire army fighting against defenseless cities. Lucky for the Libyans, we have armed forces to counter those that seek their subjugation. We have the will and the ability to rush to their defense.

For the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, and of the world order and peace, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge.

But our defense of the roses of the Abbotsford Avenues of our nation face a fortune in isolation, often hidden from view, and commonly undefended in the face of violent deprivations of their safety.

It is to this high purpose that I now call my people …
I ask them to stand calm and firm and united in this time of trial.

The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield, … If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then with God's help, we shall prevail.

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