Today or yesterday is an anniversary of sorts, a day of commemoration, a day to reflect on what it is in man that dooms him to endless repetition of his mistakes.
Maybe it’s just a day to spit on the sidewalk, hitch up your pants and say, “same shit, different day” and let man worry about himself.
Sixty nine years ago Hitler and Mussolini decided that propping up their soul mate Francisco Franco would offer them a great opportunity to test out all the new high tech military hardware they had amassed.
This was bad news for a Basque city called Guernica and 1500 or 6000 or 16,000 of it’s inhabitants. The number is uncertain, record keeping tends to go out the window when the entire universe is a collage of blood and body parts.
Numbers don’t matter when it comes to human carnage, the first bestial act is horror enough. Once the stench of blood and death, the evil reek of terror and pain overloads all the sensory pathways, whether we wallow in the blood and gore of hundreds or thousands is only a matter of accounting.
The town was defenseless, there was no Basque Air Force to protect the citizens and the Republicans had run out of airplanes and nearly everything else. Guernica was about to become famous.
It is described in historical accounts as the first time that civilians had been attacked by air power with such wrenching devastation. Devastation by bombing is only a phrase and can’t convey the sights and sounds, the screams of terror and random senseless violence of what occurred in Guernica that day. By morning Guernica would have nothing left but its fame.
They came, the Germans in their Heinkels, primitive by our sophisticated standards, they came, the Italians in their Fiats and they hurled their now quaint antique bombs down upon the guilty and the innocent, down upon the cowardly and the valiant, the pure and the profane alike.
They came in the late afternoon and bombed and came again and again and bombed and bombed and bombed and bombed…and returned in the early evening and bombed.
A rubble of ruin, a great hideous forlorn tumble of refuse, of smoke and fire, of screams and pain and dust and sun baked rubble cooling in the evening breeze surrounded only by the mournful sounds of dying.
They say that there are conservation laws, that energy and mass cannot be destroyed. Physicists and technicians tell me that other things as well obey these laws, momentum and something called spin.
I wonder about the moans of the dying and the screams of the children, I wonder about the weeping of the mothers and the cries of rage of the brothers, I wonder, are these too conserved?
Are the all sounds of terror and loss from all the wars of history conserved, each war laying it’s grotesque symphony atop the last?
I guess that’s a question for the accountants, the strategic thinkers who are able to see these things calmly and having convinced themselves of the necessity of the first bestial act no longer worry about the numbers.
I don’t know, I’m not a professional person I just hear the screams, the physicists tell me they don’t go away.