April 24, 2007

Prayers, Poetry , Art: In War

Having done a lot of research lately into the 40's, WWII, and the lives and times of Americans in that era, I ran across a poem -- well, a prayer, really -- that is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, and is on display at the FDR Library and Museum. She carried it in her wallet throughout the War, on her visits on behalf of the war effort as a Red Cross spokesperson, wearing the blue uniform all the other girls did.
This is her poem:

Dear Lord
Lest I continue
My complacent way
Help me to remember
Somewhere out there
A man died for me today.
- As long as there be war
I then must
Ask and answer
Am I worth dying for?

A fascinating find on display at the Oakland MOCHA (Museum of Children's Art - the show runs through June 3rd.) chronicles the same war from a child's point of view. The pictures were painted at a day care for children whose parents worked in the war effort. This is one of the paintings, which obviously shows a mind well aware of the world around them.

It's amazing how children are marketed to these days, with big sound and flash, as if they're dumb and won't take in what Madison Avenue manufacturers want them to beg for without all the noise. Here lies the simple untruth of that belief: most parents would try to keep ugliness as far away from their child as possible. However, it is apparent that nothing keeps out the reality of war.

Another poem-prayer from the same time period, first published in January 1943 in a "Colored" newspaper.

"Draftee's Prayer"

Dear Lord, today
I go to war:
To fight, to die.
Tell me, what for?
Dear Lord, I'll fight,
I do not fear,
Germans or Japs
My fears are here

History. It leaves one so much to think about.

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