"All Turns Into Yesterday"
— who feels like she'd just written a history paper
Pairing: nothing specific
Archive: mash-slash and at http://tostwins.slashcity.net/jimaine.htm
Disclaimer: Don't own any of the characters, historical or fictitious, and no money exchanged hands. More is the pity
(1) Some things in the MASH-characters' (appearing courtesy of 20th Century FOX) biographies aren't canon but the results of my own attempts to make sense of the multitude of (sometimes contradictory) information given over the course of the show.
(2) I'm neither American nor a student of history. It's just a hobby. I did my best to research the conflicts given and provide accurate information, but in some cases, the sources are consulted disagree and sometimes it's not clear whether the date corresponds to a ceasefire or definite treaty, or, for that matter, to the first shot being fired. Don't lynch me for it. It's not that relevant to the essence of the fic anyway. What I want to say, is said, and that's that. And if anyone thinks that I'm being too critical, feel free to express your dismay – I have my fire-extinguisher standing by.
Just be glad that I didn't include *en detail* the Turkish Wars, the Thirty Year War, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, everything that went on in Russia, or even something as early as the Trojan War J I was tempted…but then I didn't have the energy.
September 14th, July 9th, New Year and Christmas. Columns in a ledger, numbered squares on a calendar, graphic representations of 24-hour units. And human lives.
***1339 – 1453***
Before the great explorers, before the discovery of the New World That's Not So Brave, the notable wars are limited to Europe.
England and France fight for supremacy and territory, two kings ascending on either side over the hundred (and fourteen more, actually) years of conflict this war is named for.
Centuries later, some William Shakespeare would pick the Battle of Agincourt for one of his histories. (("O now; who will behold/ The royal captain of this ruined band/ Walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent,/ Let him cry, 'Praise and glory on his head!'"))
It will look comparatively tame and civilized on stage.
They fight at Crecy, Poitiers, all over France. English archers are pitched against French cavalrymen. A new weapon, the powerful longbow, wreaks as much havoc among the French knights as will in later days machine-guns and mortars. The bloodshed is interspersed with various treaties and brief periods of peace during which the two parties regroup, raise more funds from the starving populace, settle revolts back home, or agree, with the Church's blessing, to burn a teenaged peasant girl at the stake.
When peace finally arrives, most of those who are suffering on both sides can't really tell the difference.
***June 16th, 1775 – September 3rd, 1783***
Like so many things in life, the one spark that sets off the hostilities, is money, the eternal, and arguably the best motivator. The conflict between France and England is barely over, when new issues trouble the colonies.
The colonial war has severely drained England's resources and in order to pay off his debts, King George III enforces new tax-laws.
The thirteen colonies won't stand for it.
Fifty bales of tea are set afloat in Boston Harbor and a year later, on a September day in Philadelphia, George Washington is named commander of the new Continental Army.
When, after months of small-scale engagements and skirmishes, the fighting starts for good, the ranks of the colonists are reinforced by thousands of volunteers.
On July 4th, 1776, the declaration of independence is the ultimate sign for King George to end this revolution by any means necessary, but the reinforcements he sends encounter heavy resistance.
The winter of 1777 at Valley Forge becomes the final and greatest trial for Washington's troops. No battle is fought during their six-month encampment there, the only struggle is against the elements, disease and low morale.
With French support, they eventually force the English army to surrender at Yorktown; the last of His Majesty's troops leave American soil in 1783.
Years of postwar problems follow, the new nation struggling for recognition as a sovereign state, and Washington, in his Farewell Address, warns of 'foreign entanglements', a view which is to influence the foreign and domestic policy of the U.S. for the two centuries and well into a third…
'Foreign entanglements' – a term open to interpretation.
***April 12th, 1861 – April 9th, 1865***
One of the first instances of North against South, a nation, one *people* torn apart in a battle of brother against brother. The nation's split in half, severed at the waist, and as the blue arms, head and torso battle the gray pelvic region and legs, God watches in confusion; He hears the cries for help on both sides and doesn't quite know in whose favor he should decide.
Soon, the war isn't just about the end of slavery or difference in lifestyles anymore.
After the Confederacy's unconditional surrender at Appomattox, a nation has to deal with financial losses in excess of eight billion dollars and rebuild the devastated South.
But the loss of life weighs the heaviest. The figure at the bottom of the bill is staggering, a death toll the likes of which America has never known and never will know again. Unbeknownst by all, a new record has been set: the fatalities of these four years will continue to surpass the added totals of all other American wars, past and future.
***June 28th, 1914 – November 11th, 1918***
It's the Golden Twenties. The Great War, the so-called War To End All Wars, has been over for years (Johnny came marching home, hurrah…) and the last fires are being put out. The world is slowly recovering. As the nations mourn their dead, heal their wounded and rebuild their economies, people start looking towards the future with hope again, and in a bed in Crabapple Cove, Maine, a newborn baby boy is falling asleep in his mother's arms. His little world consists of voices, loving touches, warmth and safety; the lullaby that fills his dreams never mentions the possibility that among the future days of his brand-new life there'll be other dates he has to worry about aside from birthdays, graduations and his wedding.
He is but one of an entire generation that's to be disillusioned soon enough.
***September 1st, 1939 – September 2nd, 1945***
In an Officers' Club at Anderson Air Force Base on Guam, the radio crackles ominously, a news broadcast interrupting the gentle crooning of Sinatra to announce that a few minutes ago, General MacArthur has signed Japan's unconditional surrender.
Sitting at his table, Lt.-Col. Sherman Potter closes his eyes and lets out a sigh of relief. It's over, at last it's over. He raises his glass in a toast to peace (the men, officers and noncoms alike, readily join him, hear, hear) and his voice in a song.
They are celebrating all day and on into the night, but his heart is heavy with thoughts of home and Mildred and how he will never be able to balance the checkbook of their marriage.
Their years apart will always be greater in number than their years together.
Stepping outside, he feels the effect of the one too many drinks he's had and smiles up at the sickle of the waxing moon, compares it to the Grim Reaper's scythe that's finally being granted a respite after years of continuous use.
Just like his scalpel.
It's early September, as warm as late July here in the Pacific, and in the thick, humid air, the smell of diesel-fuel and steaks mingles with the sweet fragrance of exotic blossoms. Today doesn't smell any different than yesterday.
His second war, his second peace, but then they say this bit about the third time being –
He doesn't finish the thought.
Maybe, he muses, he should take those two weeks of leave he's been postponing since Easter. Fly home to Hannibal, Missouri, and fix the door to the garden-shed. Lend a hand in picking apples and cherries…a peaceful Sunday on the front porch, coffee and fresh apple-pie and Mildred sitting next to him, the two of them just being silent together.
Yes, it certainly sounds like a good idea.
Peace has come again, a soldier is thinking about home, and halfway around the world, in California, Maine and Massachusetts and every other part of the One Nation Under God, young men graduate from medical school and start their first year of residency. They are eager and idealistic and think that some day they will change the world.
***June 25th, 1950 – July 27th, 1953***
Sunlight is streaming through the stained glass windows of the church, creating multicolored patterns on wood and stone and the ivory canvas of a bridal dress. It's a beautiful morning in late May, and in the eyes of the groom the only thing more beautiful still is his wife-to-be.
They have waited long enough to take this next step in their long relationship.
His joy as he repeats the vows is shared by friends and family who have come to bear witness to this union. Not a lot of people, only thirty, maybe forty, counting the priest and the bridesmaids and the impossible prankster he's picked for a best man.
It's a small and simple wedding – Peggy Hayden and B.J. Hunnicutt, MD, soon to enter into his last and hopefully final year as a resident, can't afford much more.
They exchange the rings, golden bands as light as air – it shall be in another country, thousands of miles away, that the precious metal shall grow heavy with guilt, doubt and misplaced (are they, really?) emotions – and speak the forever-binding words ("I do." – "I do.") and he lifts the veil to seal his vow with a kiss.
In sickness and in health, for the best of times and the worst of times…and the definition of those is up to the politicians.
It is the United States' debut as 'world police', the first Crusade (to use the right wrong word) and it turns out to be more complicated than anticipated, for the enemy isn't just one people with one name to it.
It's an idea they mean to keep from spreading ("…support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures", nicely put, Mr Truman), but in reality that idea is made up of faces that are just as human and just as scared. This idea bleeds the same color as democracy, can likewise be hurt and killed by bullets and shells.
It nurtures a xenophobia that will continue for half a century; incidentally, Greece (also a recipient of Truman's anti-communist aid) is among the many xenoí nations 'policing' Korea.
In Korea, they fight with guns and heavy artillery.
Meanwhile, in the States (home, bittersweet home), another war rages. These soldiers wear suits and their weapons are pens and paper as they follow the orders of their Supreme Commander McCarthy.
In Korea, the wounded are rushed from the front to the five MASH-units where young doctors, who are deficient in age, experience and training, do their best to save them using what little they have and know. Meatball surgery, they call it, quick stitches, nothing fancy, on their particular assembly line they build Model-T patients in 24/48/72-hour shifts.
And then late at night, their fingers trembling and weary, they rebuild each other, patching up the holes with tender touches and whispers. The glue – the liquid equivalent of 3-0 silk – is high-proof moonshine.
In the States, the casualties are rushed to prison, but even if they make it back out, their reputations rarely recover.
For three years, the fighting seesaws back and forth over the 38th parallel, and the only difference between Hill (Pick a number! "C" for Calvary, C 35 – Bingo!) and Hell is a letter.
Young men and women meet, and on the anvil of suffering, lasting friendships are forged.
Even love is found and lost and, occasionally, retrieved.
For some it's the worst of times, for some it's (in spite of all) the best.
And it's golden rings, photographs, letters and memories stowed away in footlockers under army cots that cause some seals ("I do, I do…don't I?") to crack.
Many of those who return home are wasted and broken in body and soul, and many don't return at all.
***August 7th, 1964 (actually, much earlier than that, but who's crazy about detail?) – 1973***
As it is the case in many armed conflicts, no specific dates exist for its beginning or end, you can only say that an existing situation suddenly heats up and rapidly evolves into open warfare. Later it will not end but dwindle to an indecisive 'something', dissipate into the steam rising from the jungle that's Southeast Asia.
What has begun as background noise to Korea (after all, the French had the situation in Indochina well in hand – or so they claim up to the day of their withdrawal), becomes a full-fledged, independent crisis.
There's other kids doing the fighting now and other doctors treating them. Vietcong, Agent Orange and terrorist bombings, My Lai and other 'mistakes'…
Their predecessors read about it in the papers, shake their graying heads in horrified confusion – don't they ever learn? And at night, when the demons of blood and naked bone are pounding on the gates of memory, trying to claw their way inside (Or is that 'out'?), they hold their loved ones, be they male, female or a deity, and continue the fight that has never really stopped for them.
Dien Bien Phu, the Tet Offensive…relentless fighting from the Delta to the DMZ, convoluted politics (Vietnam's a hot potato no one wants to handle) and the Hippie movement, all overshadowed by the fire in the jungle that burns on and on and on.... Fifty-eight thousand lives later, it's over.
They stand in front of a black wall of stone in Washington, D.C. and read the names of those who perished in this new 'Police Action' (at least, after a while, they had the decency to officially call it a war) after barely having survived the other. Some of them they recognize as people they put together and who now had gotten killed (*switch on the sarcasm*) at a more convenient time.
***Past, Present and Future***
Everybody's an aggressor at some point or other in history. Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, the Soviets...China, Japan, the U.S... Imperialism and expansion (be it for territory, ideologies or plain profit) tempt and corrupt, exempting no one, and the political map of the world remains in a state of constant flux.
Dictators, unpopular regimes and oppression of minorities continue to provide a healthy turnover in the defense-sector and headline news of "Civil wars, Uprisings and Terrorism". There's always a gun firing somewhere, a shell exploding, always someone riding a bus and setting off the six pounds of C-4 hidden in his rucksack.
Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya.
Somalia, Rwanda, Ethiopia.
Liberia, Congo, Sudan.
The powder-keg that's Israel and Palestine.
Northern Ireland, the Basque Country, Algeria.
Pakistan, India, East Timor.
And don't forget Colombia, please!
Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan...
And then, of course, of *course*, there's the much-hailed War Against Terror, the Battle Against the Axis of Evil.
An odd terminology, considering that war – in any incarnation, on any scale – is evil by definition, and in itself the greatest terror of all. The greatest threat to life. Two wrongs don't make one right, not in this case. War isn't about mathematics.
A disembodied voice hovers over the battlefields, headstones and mass-graves like smoke, the words a death-knell for millions.
//But it doesn't end. It's continuous. When it finishes here, they take it on the road. I can catch it anytime, anyplace.//
And in between, not as overt and aggressive, there's doctrines and pacts and plans of "support", agreements made in public or secret between allies and enemies – sometimes these two terms are interchangeable and vary on a daily basis. War is a reliable institution, a constant in all political and economical equations.
The Hundred Year's War.
The Thirty-Year War.
The Six-Day War.
The Hundred-Hour War aka Operation Desert Storm.
One could be led into thinking that there was a tendency towards shorter, more efficient and 'cleaner' wars, pardon the euphemism. That smoke-screen of modern technology and tactics doesn't conceal the aftermath which is still the same as thousands of years ago when two tribes of Neanderthals fought over a particularly cozy cave, clobbering each other to death with sticks and stones, weapons that would break bones as easily as a smart-bomb dropped from an F-14.
The end result is blood and pain. Nothing modern or civilized or clean about that.
It's all about influence and power.
It always is.
Never simply about "living life for life's sake".
Dates of birth and death, of beginnings and endings. Alphas and Omegas.
Never of war, though, only of peace.