Hogan's Alley

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Soldier's Death

Christopher Hitchens, whose writings about the efficacy of attacking Saddam Husein influenced many, including myself, writes with extreme beauty of the death of Mark Daily, a young man who signed up to fight in part because of Hitch's writings. Learning of the young man's death and his involvement in influencing him, it is fair to say, gobsmacked Hitch. He tells the story with great eloquence. Here is a key quote:

As one who used to advocate strongly for the liberation of Iraq (perhaps more strongly than I knew), I have grown coarsened and sickened by the degeneration of the struggle: by the sordid news of corruption and brutality (Mark Daily told his father how dismayed he was by the failure of leadership at Abu Ghraib) and by the paltry politicians in Washington and Baghdad who squabble for precedence while lifeblood is spent and spilled by young people whose boots they are not fit to clean. It upsets and angers me more than I can safely say, when I reread Mark's letters and poems and see that—as of course he would—he was magically able to find the noble element in all this, and take more comfort and inspiration from a few plain sentences uttered by a Kurdish man than from all the vapid speeches ever given. Orwell had the same experience when encountering a young volunteer in Barcelona, and realizing with a mixture of sadness and shock that for this kid all the tired old slogans about liberty and justice were actually real. He cursed his own cynicism and disillusionment when he wrote:

For the fly-blown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing what I had learned
Out of books and slowly.

However, after a few more verses about the lying and cruelty and stupidity that accompany war, he was still able to do justice to the young man:

But the thing I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.

May it be so, then, and may death be not proud to have taken Mark Daily, whom I never knew but whom you now know, and—I hope—miss.

Update: For a sense of who Mark Daily was, check out his MySpace page.

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