It was great. Author Richard Rubin set out at the turn of the century to see if he could find and interview veterans of the Great War. Like me he had a grandfather in that war but never asked him much about it. The centenarians he found gave him a rich and profound understanding of what it was all about. The last of them, Frank Buckles, got the second to last chapter and his was quite a story of not one but two world wars.
Among the more suprising things Buckles told Rubin in answer to a sort of mundane predictable question was that he didn’t think the war and his experiences made the world a smaller place. This was just after Buckles told his interviewer that the most astounding invention of his 110 years on the planet was in the writer’s pocket – a cell phone. To explain why he mentioned a friend who had taken a call from his grandson in the China Sea on board a ship from and to a cell phone.
So, I expected what Rubin expected to hear – that the world was much, much smaller. But, No. Buckles said after the war it was a much bigger world. Before the war he came from a small town in the US and that was his experience. After the war he had been introduced to a much larger and fabulously more interesting world. I could relate. That’s why I study geography and history and its why the world will keep growing on me. After visiting the London Bridge yesterday I stopped at a used bookstore in Bullhead City and bought a hardcover about the Renaissance wars between Scotland and England a few decades before Cromwell decorated the bridge with severed heads. Now, more of the world beckons me and that book only cost me two dollars.
I believe I’ve explained previously that the book on the Doughboys is intended as research for my book on my Grandfather. Among my contentions will be that we can learn of a more civilized era when (at least among white Americans) we were vastly more tolerant of each other’s opinions political and otherwise. I say that despite the conversation my twelve-year old self had with my Grandfather during which he warned me that the greatest political mistake of his life was voting for a Democrat. He voted for Woodrow Wilson. He got my grandfather’s vote because he promised to keep America out of war. Even though Wilson proved unreliable my Grandfather was quick to volunteer and serve in the bone littered trenches of Northern France.
Despite this my Grandfather did not dislike, let alone vilify, Democrats. I hope the book I write, should I forge on, will show that Americans of my Grandfather’s Era set a good example from which the next generation of Americans can learn.