What Have They Done … ?

Margaret Naylor

Our Grandpas eagerly signed up, left home.
It was the Great War, war to end all wars,
and in Gallipoli and Flanders' fields
they died that peace might wash the Empire's shores.
Baptised in mud and blood they came of age.
From trench to trench the deadly steel was hurled
and most men never saw the enemy.
Then armistice, and peace to heal the world.

And what did they do with the peace?

The hedonistic twenties, Wall Street's crash.
The nightmare thirties, greed and arrogance.
The ragged unemployed, a new word "dole.”
Cries of despair "Give battlers a chance”!
Conceived of xenophobia, monstrous birth,
resurging national pride, the twisted cross,
‘All for the Emperor!’ The gathering storm,
inevitable war, and reason lost.

That's what they did with the peace.

And so once more the call to arms went out.
Our fathers sailed to keep the Empire whole.
"Arbeit macht frei" and kamikaze pyres,
Cologne, Hiroshima, Nagasaki toll.
Gaunt faces, haunted eyes, returning home,
unspeakable the horrors seen and made.
The spoils divided, nations broken up,
foundations for a lasting peace thus laid.

And what did they do with the peace?

Red terror, yellow peril, war grown cold.
The running sores in Asia patched, not healed.
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, jungle heat
where dead men rot before their blood's congealed.
Our brothers conscripts to a phony war,
no noble fight for freedom this, just pain,
knowing that their sisters marched back home.
Uneasy peace, a war with nothing gained.

And what did we do with the peace?

A generation drugged, out of control,
naively pandering to Mammon's men.
Beirut, Baghdad, Afghanistan in flames,
the Bear's death throes, the hounds let loose again.
Sarajevo, Grozny, Dili, Kosovo,
the dirty wars, hate festering, breaking out.
Our fresh-faced children eager for their role,
peacekeepers, so they say, and who can doubt?

So, what will you do with the peace?