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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Man, The Militant

Lester Bernbaum, '37

The Magpie, January 1937, v. 21, n. 1, p. 75.

In the distance the peal of a cannon's roar echoes over no-man's land. High in the heavens Jupiter Pluvius, gripped with wrath and anger, flashes his thunderbolts across the pale, dull sky. The onrushing rain sweeps across the soggy plains which present a ravaged appearance, rendered so by marauding, explosive shells. Lying on the muddy turf are the bullet-riddled corpses of God's creation with heads decapitated, and limbs torn from bloody for torsos. Nearby, there is a trench with weather beaten, slimy soldiers buried in its lousy haunts.

The signal is given! Hostile battalions of men leap over the trenches, crouch with rifles in hand, and speed toward their foe's encampments. The enemy snipers detect the pounding of their feet, and relay a signal to their trenches. Nearer and nearer comes the bold charge. A staccato of shots streams toward the invaders. Rocket shells, gleaming with illuminated magnificence, skirt the cloudy, celestial heavens, only to dart earthward, sowing seeds of destruction, and up-heaving scattered bits of earth. Rifles respond with their bombastic talk. Streams of deadly bullets emanate from machine-gun nests. Airplanes high above, "lay their fatal eggs." Bodies reel, stagger, and fall. Bayonets tear recklessly through living flesh. Gigantic, lumbering tanks plough through seas of mud, battering down breastworks, crushing trees under their advance, and rending barbed wire meshes apart. Sickening rents sing out into the dismal, obscure night and dim the groans of dying men.

"Who won?" asks an eager, inquiring youth in the class.

"Son," answers the professor, "that is just the point of this history lesson. Who ever wins a war? Nobody. The fact that you have slashed your adversary to bits while you still remain living, doesn't make you the winner. Remember your clothes are torn, your nose bleeding, your body (if you are lucky) only painfully bruised, and your condition weak. That is exactly how a war terminates, the victor, bruised, battered, and beaten. And the foe, deformed, overwhelmed, and crushed! Civilization is rent asunder. Houses are wrecked and scrapped. Sons and fathers are forever lost. And so, my son, you see that it is both sides who actually lose and lose heavily, harvesting both misery and lamentation. But, my son, the catastrophe of war doesn't check war whatsoever. Each time the world has been reconstructed and renovated, war looms, snarling and glaring at a mad world. And Man is his own undoing. He witnesses the sureness of destruction but, like the stupid moth he is, he is drawn to his destruction again and again by the deceptive flames of propaganda, class hatreds, nationalism and above all, greed."

A recess ended the history session as the professor murmured philosophically, "Man the Militant" and sighed, disturbed with the world.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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