No, don't think I've gone all soft. I'm no peacenick, and I have no illusions about Seeger. I have always loved Peter, Paul and Mary-- Paul is a devout Christian whose masterpiece-- Wedding Song-- is a classic of Christian music.
Where have all the flowers gone? is a beautiful haunting song. It seems to tell the truth about us in an essential way-- about our humanity and fragility and our murderous foolishness.
The 100th anniversary of WWI is coming up this summer. The Great War was the epochal cataclysm of modern times, exceeded in importance only by the French Revolution, which was its antecedent and its real cause. I don't count WWII as a separate conflict, because I consider it the resumption and denouement of the Great War, interrupted as it was by a low dishonest truce.
The carnage of The Great War was unspeakable. A generation of young French and English and German and Austrian and Russian and Turkish men perished. It was madness and hubris and an unraveling. The Bolsheviks and the Nazis and the Italian fascists germinated in it, and arose from it. In our country, Wilson began the expansion of government power and committed some of the most repressive acts that our nation has ever used against its citizens.
I hope there is much reflection this summer on The Great War, on its causes and its consequences. It is the story of modernity, played out in a charnel house. It is, I believe, a manifestation of the rise of secularism, of mass movements and of practical (and at times explicit) atheism. Nietzsche saw it coming, with more clarity than practically anyone.
In August of 2014, we should reflect on the death of God in much of our culture, to honor the millions who perished because of it.
NB: If you want to understand much of the immediate lead-up to The Great War, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August is a masterpiece. She recounts the summer of 1914, explaining the beginning of the war with poetic insight. Popular history at its finest.