The recent carnage in Ukraine is indeed a stark reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. Of course, war and conflict is nothing new and some would argue it is the natural order but the recent senseless killing of men, women, and children in the name of political ideology are a stark reminder that though man may be the smartest species he or she can indeed be the most vicious and cruel. Nazi Germany tested out their military capabilities in the Spanish civil war of the 1930’s and Russia is doing the same in Ukraine right now.
My career in the United States Navy allowed me to hear of and witness unspeakable genocide in Rwanda and Somalia and see the results of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Hopefully not to be repeated but as I type, they continue around the globe. Yes, Ukraine is in the spotlight for the moment, but let us not forget what is taking place in other spots of the globe where there are no reporters or television crews are present to record the anguish and suffering. Many suffer and die in silence out of our sight unfortunately out of our minds.
In For Whom the Bells Tolls Ernest Hemingway graphically describes the brutality of the Spanish Civil War. It is told primarily through the thoughts and experiences of the protagonist, Robert Jordan and his companion Maria a young Spanish woman whose life has been shattered by her parents’ execution and her rape at the hands of the Falangists (part of the fascist coalition). The novel draws heavily on Hemingway’s own experiences in the Spanish Civil War as a reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance and is one of his best-selling novels.
As the novel closes, Jordan is maimed when a tank shoots his horse out from under him. Knowing that his wound is so severe that it is highly unlikely that he will survive and that he would slow the others down, he bids farewell to María and ensures her escape to safety with the surviving guerrillas. He assures her repeatedly that they are now one – where she goes, he will be too.
Yes, at the end of the day as Earnest Hemingway cautioned us that like it or not all of us are part of mankind and that the death of any man or women no matter where on the planet diminishes us all. He admonishes us to “never send one to know for whom the bell tolls; for it tolls for thee.” Words in this crazy and at times irrational world we should all strive to live by.