At school they often make you study dated and archaic poetry. But some poetry has an affect on you that makes it stick with you. Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen is one of those poems for me. The language in the last paragraph still creates such a strong, harrowing image in my mind. It reminds us that war is something to be avoided at all costs, for it is only ever a waste of innocent lives. Our armed forces are not something to be remembered for two minutes once a year, their contribution to the history of our nation is not represented by a piece of red paper on a pin. We must honour their memory by fighting against aggression across the world but not by resorting to rifles.
I believe that our best opportunity to do this is by Scotland standing alone as a force for good in the world. Not as part of a nation that still sees itself as a superpower, to take a phrase I’ve heard Kenny MacAskill use in the context of crimninal justice “tooled up, rammed up and ready to go”. That is not the nation I want to live in, that is not the Scotland I believe we are.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.