The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

by Richard on October 28, 2008

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb, for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen

See the manuscript

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }


Bishop Alan Wilson 10.28.08 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for this Richard — Powerful stuff, and I did use it a few years ago for remembrancet. Seeing it again has given me just what I need for a couple of weeks time, I think…


Richard 10.28.08 at 12:48 pm

Glad to be of service!


dh 10.28.08 at 3:16 pm

Richard, I don’t get this passage. I think nobody should be compared with Abraham for it appears one would have to put a leader on the same page with Abraham which doesn’t work because his Faith was one of the strongest in the history of the world. THe only way this passage works is if one replaces Abraham with Hitler and even that makes the passage heretical. Oh well, I still just don’t get the passage after readin it two or three times.


Beth 10.28.08 at 4:26 pm

DH, the poet is being ironic. He is taking the figure of Abraham who, as you said, is renowned for his faith, and showing how the leaders who sacrifice their young men in war do not share that ability to be faithful and merciful. They follow their own desires rather than the voice of the angel.

So the poet is comparing people to Abraham only in order to show that they are not as good as him.


Kim 10.28.08 at 5:24 pm

Wrong war too, DH.

You should read some more poetry. It will do wonders for your imagination, which in turn might improve your powers of empathy.

Btw, Wilfred Owen was English, and the “old man” to whom he refers in the final couplet embraces the leaders of both sides in the Great War. So now’s your chance to go off half-cocked about how great the leaders of the Triple Entente - oh, and the US (late as ever) - were, compared to that evil bastard, the Kaiser - and thereby prove my point! ;)


dh 10.28.08 at 5:52 pm

I don’t see the story of Abrham in the same way as the leaders of nations. So the irony and the analogy just doesn’t work for me IMHO. I do believe the Triple Entent were better, not that they were great, than the Axis in that the Axis attacked the Entent first.


Fat Prophet 10.28.08 at 11:41 pm

dh has just reminded me in his last comment of that wonderful American TV programme called ‘Soap’ the continuing sags of the Tates and the Campbells where every episode started with those unforgettable words - ‘Confused? You will be!’ (I hadn’t got a clue what he is talking about!!!)


DmL 10.29.08 at 9:06 am

Profoundly disturbing, although this kinda plays along with Barth’s quote in a way.


Tony Buglass 10.29.08 at 10:21 am

DH: “I don’t see the story of Abrham in the same way as the leaders of nations. …. I do believe the Triple Entent were better, not that they were great, than the Axis in that the Axis attacked the Entent first.

Still trying to sort out who wears the White Hats and who wears the Black Hats, eh? ;)

Discussing poetry and historical criticism in the same breath is a bit like comparing a Picasso to a photograph - they are different genres, which need to be approached in different ways. The point about Abraham is that he chose not to sacrifice his son, but Owen’s “old man” made the opposite choice - by implication, the wrong one. It isn’t allegory, it isn’t typology, it’s poetic imagery.

As for the reasons for the outbreak of WW1, they are themselves much more complex than “who fired first” - a whole gamut of causes including imperial ambitions on both sides and the tensions which led to Sarajevo. One theory is that it came in the end down to railway timetables: all armies mobilised by train, and while most plans ended up with armies in mobilisation areas, the German Schlieffen Plan had plans which placed armies in assault positions - the momentum of mobilisation actually pulled the trigger.

Clausewitz defined war as politics by other means. I suggest war is the failure of politics - when we cannot resolve our issues, we resort to a fight. That is our tragedy, and that is what Owen was reflecting.


dh 10.29.08 at 2:35 pm

Well, one only has to look at Germany who attacked innocent neutral nations where the Entent didn’t. To me that is all that needs to be said about that and when innocent neutral nations are attacked nations who are able to come to there defense have a moral obligation to do so.


Tony Buglass 10.29.08 at 3:32 pm

So, have you never seen someone provoked into an attack which has led them to be held up as a bully? Some things are never as simple as they look.

I don’t wish to defend the Triple Alliance for their aggression. But my comment about the causes of WW1 was deliberate - the fairly new state of Gemany inherited Prussian militarism, and the memory of the defeat of France in 1870. The attitudes of the British and French Empires seemed to the Germans to be unfairly denying Germany “a place in the sun.” It therefore led to an arms race, as Germay attempted to build an army and Navy to match those of Britain and France. This was storing up gunpowder, which almost ignited in 1905, and did ignite with the spark of Austria’s attack on Serbia in 1914. Yes, it was imperial Germany which invaded neutral Belgium, but the Entente Powers had themselves invaded and occupied most of (neutral) Africa over the previous two centuries. Not quite so black and white…

” …when innocent neutral nations are attacked nations who are able to come to there defense have a moral obligation to do so…”

So when the USA invaded neutral Grenada in 1983 and deposed and executed the Prime Minister, incurring the condemnation of the UN General Assembly, the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth (of which Grenada was a member) should have responded by attacking the US?

Not so black and white…


dh 10.29.08 at 3:51 pm

Grenada was not neutral. They were becoming communist and the people were living under that torturous type of regime. The government was overtaken by a Communist coup. So your analysis that Grenada was “neutral” is totally wrong. They were being supported by Cuba and the Soviets and 5nations of the Carribean asked the US for help in preventing another Cuban type of government in the Caribbean. “On October 19, 1983, Bernard Coard, a hard-line communist, led a coup against the government of Maurice Bishop.” THe alternative for the US not to do what they did would be for Coard to torture its people under that evil reime.

Here is also an interesting fact: “Graffiti thanking the United States for liberating Grenada is still seen today on the streets of St. George’s.”


dh 10.29.08 at 3:59 pm

To me attacking a neutral innocent nation is where governments cross the line. I still don’t believe that Germany was provoked.

Are you sure about German defeat in light of this statement? “The complete Prussian and German victory brought about the final unification of the German Empire under King William I of Prussia.” It seems to me the Germans HAD their “place in the sun” by defeating and capturing Napolean III. So you can say that you CAN look at it as “black and white” rationally in light of these additional facts which show Germany had its place in the sun in 1870. The fact remains they desired to take over Europe in WWI and in WW2 which is a terribly bad thing and in fact is “black”.


Tony Buglass 10.29.08 at 5:15 pm

DH: “Grenada was not neutral. They were becoming communist and the people were living under that torturous type of regime.”

So the US has the right to invade an independent sovereign state because they don’t like the colour of their politics? The USA was condemned by the UN for their actions - that counts rather more than graffiti on the walls. (There was plenty of Pro-Hitler graffiti seen on walls in Germany after the defeat - doesn’t say we were wrong to get rid of him.)


Tony Buglass 10.29.08 at 5:21 pm

DH “Are you sure about German defeat in light of this statement?”

I said “German defeat OF France” not “German defeat BY France.”

“It seems to me the Germans HAD their “place in the sun” by defeating and capturing Napolean III. ”

That’s not what they meant. Britain and France had colonies in Africa and India, and Germany wanted to share in colonialism by having places in those continents. You might not believe Germany was provoked, but they certainly saw the behaviour of the Briish and French as unfair and therefore provocative. It doesn’t justify war - as I’ve already said, war means the failure of politicians to work out their differences. But history is never as black and white as it appears to be - never forget history is generally written by the winners and the survivors. It is seldom objective.

You seem to have great difficulty seeing events from the viewpoint of the other side. You don’t have to agree with them - just understand them.


dh 10.29.08 at 5:26 pm

So you are assuming that the UN is correct in their analysis? The fact remains the US prevented another nation from becoming Castro-like (being that the coup was supported by Castro and the Soviets). To compare the US in its actions to Grenada in the same breath as Hitler seems so over the top I don’t even know how to respond.

Remember the people of Grenada in the majority did not support the Communist coup. In fact the leader of Grenada was assassinated by the Communists in the coup. So it was not “independent” as you say.

So it IS black and white like I have said. I still don’t see Grenada as “neutral” or “innocent” like you have said. The majority of the people in Grenada who did not support the Communist coup those were truly the innocent people in all of this in light of the actions by the leader who ousted the Prime Minister of Grenada.


dh 10.29.08 at 5:51 pm

Tony, Germany was not provoced pre WW1. Germany won the war in the Franco-Prussian War. What was unfair in France and the UK between the Franco-Prussian War and WW1? If they wanted to pursue colonialism they could have during this time. (not saying this was right but there was nothing stopping them).

I guess I don’t see how the defeat of France denied the Germans a “place in the sun” when in fact they won the war.

I do see the events and acknowledge the viewpoints of the other side but that doesn’t change the fact that they were wrong in WW1 and WW2. Were they correct.

I’m still trying to see provocation after the Franco-Prussian War till the events prior to WW1 and I haven’t observed any. Nothing prevented the Germans from obtaining colonies like the French and the UK did. (not that that would have been right or obtaining colonies is right but you get the point).


John 10.29.08 at 7:33 pm

Wow. That is a powerful poem. I’m only read Owen’s “Ducle et Decorum Est” and had missed this one. Thanks for posting it, Richard.

It reminds me of Evelyn DeMorgan’s paintings of WWI, such as “The Red Cross.”


Richard 10.29.08 at 9:13 pm

Quite a reaction this pome got. I’m not much of a lad for poetry in the ordinary way, but I’ve enjoyed — if that’s the right word — Wilfred Owen since I was introduced to him when I was twelve. This piece is one that I’m pretty sure Kim Fabricius put me on to, but don’t tell him. He’ll just get smug.

As i say, I’m not normally much on poetry, so I’m the last person who should be commenting on it. But I ‘m rather surprised that nobody has picked up Owen’s use of Abram, not Abraham. That must be significant. For me, the most obvious point of the poem is that, though we often talk the fallen in war as having made a sacrifice, the reality is that they have been offered as a sacrifice. A very different thing.


DmL 10.29.08 at 9:42 pm

What, Richard, like an Abrams tank? : ) I thought Abram and Abraham were both correct transliterations. (My great grandfather was either an Abram(s) or Abraham(s), nobody seemed too hung up on the spelling.)

I would say you are right that historically the soldier is offered as a sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean they’re not willing, or offering themselves sometimes, too.


dh 10.29.08 at 9:44 pm

Amen DmL.


dh 10.29.08 at 10:01 pm

Richard, you might be surprised that I too appreciate your poem you posted. While it has brought out reactions in myself and others that doesn’t take away how good of a poem it is.


Richard 10.29.08 at 10:08 pm

>> “thought Abram and Abraham were both correct transliterations”

That might be true of surnames, but biblically Abram has his name changed by God to Abraham (Gen 17) when God makes his covenant with him and calls him the ‘father of many nations’. The incident with Isaac doesn’t happen until Gen 22 and I’m sure the fact that Owen uses the old name for the patriarch has meaning.


Tony Buglass 10.29.08 at 10:15 pm

DH: “To compare the US in its actions to Grenada in the same breath as Hitler seems so over the top I don’t even know how to respond.”

Simple. Both invaded independent svereign states.

You may wish to argue that the US was invited in by those who didn’t want a socialist government. The Soviet Union was invited into Afghanistan by the Government in 1980, but it was still a military invasion, which eventually failed because th people didn’t want it. The UN condemned that, too.

You can argue about it as much as you like, but the US was wrong. Whatever the politics, the rights and wrongs of Graneda’s internal political struggles, they were INTERNAL and no business of the US. But the US has never had any respect for the independnce of the nations in its so-called backyard. When the Sandinista Government of Nicargua decided to buy some old MiG-17s and MiG-19s from Cuba (a small number of antique aircraft, which one wing of the ANG in their F16s could have dalt with in 10 minutes), Reagan denounced the move as a strategic threat, and threatened to bomb Nicaraguan airfileds if they were deployed.

Whether or not the US likes or approves of their politics, Grenada and Nicargua were soveriegn and independent States. The US was therefore in breach of international law by invading and threatening, and was rightly condemned by the UN. Questioning the judgment of the UN is really a case of saying any law you don’t like is open to challenge. It won’t do.


Tony Buglass 10.29.08 at 10:20 pm

“What was unfair in France and the UK between the Franco-Prussian War and WW1?”

France was a colonial power, with “places in the sun” (ie Africa, India). So was Britain. Germany now saw herself as a world power, especially having defeated France. Germany wanted to stake a claim in Africa, and found her territorial ambitions resisted and thwarted by Britain and France. This felt so unfair to the Germans, so they embarked upon an arms race to demonstrate to the world that they really were as big and powerful as Britain and France.

Now, I’m not defending colonialism, nor defending the eventual aggression which sparked WW1. I am trying to explain that the roots of WW1 were not simply “Germany attacked a neutral country.” I have bene trying (for days, now!!) to demonstrate that history is seldom as simple as your assertions seem to make it.


Kim 10.29.08 at 11:42 pm

DmL and DH,

The tragic irony, as Owen (and all the Great War poets) saw it, was precisely that the soldiers did indeed bravely offer themselves as a willing sacrifice in a cause that the political and military leaders of both sides had assured them was “just”, but that it was the sin of pride (NB: the “Ram of Pride”, l. 14) which the leaders refused to sacrifice (inverting Abram) which led to the senseless holocaust in the trenches.


dh 10.30.08 at 2:23 am

I still think that even though you say they are “internal affairs” I still believe that it is wrong to suggest that a nation which has the capability to do something to not to do anything that would solve the situation.

I still believe that it is a gross over simplification to say they both attacked soverign states when one was innocentin its nuetrality and the other wasn’t (the nations Germany attack being innocent Grenada which was overthrown by a Communist coup). I think it IS right for Reagan to threaten the Nicaraguan government against promoting itself to being Castro like. Being Castro like does not help the people and does nothing to promote stability in the region. If it wasn’t for America in Central America and the Carribean then the nations of Cuba and Venezuela would get stronger and stronger doing greater damage than they already are doing.

I still believe that France and the UK were more innocent than Germany in their ambitions. The attack of innocent nueatral nations is totally wrong. Colonialism is also wrong but to attack an unrelated nation for really no reason between the two respective nations (aka Belgium, Poland and Czech) is terrible especially when it was Germany’s desire to take over Europe which is totally wrong and was never the desire of the UK and France.


Tony Buglass 10.30.08 at 11:15 am

Rubbish. The Nicaraguan Government was democratically elected - the reason Reagan didn’t like it was because the US had supported the corrupt Somoza regime. The main reason the US doesn’t like Castro is because they were so deeply involved with the corrupt pre-revolution regime. Why do you think Cuba had a revolution? The Venezuelan Government was democratically elected - it is not doing damage to its own people, simply working in a way which counters what the US would prefer to see. The Allende Government was democratically elected in Chile, but the US didn’t want socialism “in its backyard” so instigated a bloody coup and enabled Pinochet to take power - with the consequent decades of tyranny and untold thousands of deaths.

I’m sorry, DH, you are defending the indefensible. Whatever your personal political preferences, and however uncomfortable the beliefs of others might be to you and your nation, the US does not have the right to invade or subvert independent sovereign states. That is why you were condemned by the UN.


dh 10.30.08 at 3:02 pm

Tony, Hitler was Democratically elected. The fact remains Communism is wrong and fascism is wrong.

My statements never stated that I supported the US in every action. I also never said that Pinochet support by the US was accurate. I will say that Grenada was right, taking on the Sandanistas was right, taking on Castro was right, etc.

To me the UN has no right to be inactive when people are being torutred under Communist regimes as well as fascist regimes like Pinochet.


dh 10.30.08 at 3:08 pm

What is the greatest travesty, if we follow your reasoning, is to see Casro type philosophy spread to other nations making the people in those nations live in worse conditions as well as making the region a much more unsafe place. At least with the help of the West countries like Colombia and some others are seeing the true colors of Communism and are reacting against it in a positive way.

What is a travesty is for nations to dictate that other nations can’t do anything about these situations when it makes regions more unsafe. On a side note I’m glad the UK defended itself in the Falklands.


Tony Buglass 10.30.08 at 6:00 pm

DH: “The fact remains Communism is wrong and fascism is wrong.”

Totalitarianism is wrong, whether it is of the Right or the Left. But socialism is not necessarily totalitarian. You can wriggle all you like, but the fact remains that the US acted illegally in invading and interfering in independent sovereign states.

“I’m glad the UK defended itself in the Falklands.”

Me, too. That was a response to an invasion of British sovereign territory by a foreign power, and as such was a legal fight. It is in a different category altogether to the cases you’re trying to defend - which are indefensible. You are at liberty to disagree with the political philosophy of any regime you wish. You are not at liberty to attack them.


DmL 10.30.08 at 9:31 pm

I’m with you Kim. I’m more of a live for my fellow men, than a die for my fellow men sort of person myself, and I do regret sometimes that so many were so willing. Perhaps if they hadn’t been, better means could have been taken.

Richard: Sorry, it was a bad pun. : )


Beth 10.31.08 at 12:22 am

Kim, you know I usually respect and admire what you have to say, but “the senseless holocaust in the trenches”? That I find crude and disrespectful. I’m well aware of the original meaning of the word, but you can’t use etymology as an excuse for calling up a very specific act of violence against very specific groups of people and applying it to others for emotive effect. It was senseless, yes, and a massacre. But “holocaust” is a step too far.


Kim 10.31.08 at 1:50 am

Hi Beth,

I’m sorry you feel that way, but I disagree because (a), as you say, etymologically, originally, “holocaust” refers, according to the OED, to a “Jewish sacrificial offering burnt on an altar” - which is exactly the image evoked by the poem itself; but also because (b), again according to the OED - its first definition - the word refers to “destruction or slaughter on a mass scale”, which also perfectly fits the poem’s point (over 10 million people were killed in the Great War) - and I very specifically refer to the “holocaust in the trenches“. Needless to say, I would never for a moment have considered using the event-specific word Shoah.

Obviousy the word “holocaust” will resonate with the event of the “Holocaust”. But this resonance itself raises a larger, very demanding, extremely critical issue, specifically in the context of the contemporary nation-state of Israel. It is an issue that the American Jew and Professor of American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University Marc Ellis raises in his brilliant little book Practicing Exile: The Religious Odyssey of an American Jew (2002), a question he raises in the context of Auschwitz itself. Ellis is concerned about Auschwitz becoming a memory without a future, “suspended in time, without direction. As if history had stopped. As if the trains were still being loaded with Jews. As if the camps had just been liberated.” “If history is suspended,” Ellis suggests, “we can mourn Auschwitz. The Jewish world … retain[s] an innocence. We can hold others accountable to a political and moral standard that cannot be applied to us… [But] a directionless Auschwitz protected from use … is an Auschwitz mobilized to protect Jews in the present.”

Ellis is thinking particulalry of the way “Auschwitz” is owned possesively and deployed ideologically as a way of Israeli non-recognition and denial of the suffering and injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people, but his point is a larger one. “Meaning is struggled for in every generation and in every context,” he says. “In this struggle Jews are hardly distinct. The recognition of a common struggle for meaning within various experiences of atrocity hardly minimizes Jewish suffering.”

Perhaps if you read my comment against this background it might not sound so “crude and disrespectful”, as if by using the word “holocaust” I were minimizing the event of the “Holocaust”. Not so.


dh 10.31.08 at 2:43 pm

If people are living without freedom and are being murdered like in Grenada and Nicaragua then I don’t believe we can sit back and let them do damage to their own people. I think if a nations can come to those particualr peoples defense then I believe that sitting back and doing nothing is not an option.

I totally agree that totalitarianism from the right and left are wrong and I made that clear and nothing I said took away from that fact I believe. The fact remains that Nicaragua and Grenada were destroying their own people. I agree with your reference to Socialism but we are talking about Communism. Very much different.

We are at liberty to attack governements that destroy its own people and which murder its leaders who indeed did look out for their people.


Tony Buglass 10.31.08 at 8:54 pm

DH: “The fact remains that Nicaragua and Grenada were destroying their own people.”

The fact is that in Nicaragua, the biggest oppressors for years were the right-wing Somoza Government, and their death squads (who murdered Archishop Oscar Romero in his own cathedral), who were supported in this by the US. I repeat - Reagan was a quasi-imperialist bully. His threats against the sovereign state of Nicaragua were indefensible, just as US interference in Chile was indefensible and disastrous. America has a lot of innocent blood on its hands.

“We are at liberty to attack governements that destroy its own people”

So the rule of law is OK, except when you don’t like what the other guy is doing, so you can break it, and that’s OK?


dh 10.31.08 at 9:29 pm

The rule of law is okay and is not broken because when nations see other nations breaking the rule of law then it is okay to come to the defense of those nations violating the rule of law. We must deal harshly with nations which do not support the rule of law. Again I never said the US was right in Chile. I have always stated my disapproval of the US with regard to Chile and none of my statements contradict that.

I see Nicaragua and Chile totally different. I don’t see Reagan as a “quasi-imperialist bully”. I see him standing up to something that is just as bad as the Somoza Government which was the Santanista government.

People in nations need to reject Communism AND Fascism. It seems the people in some of these nations overreact to problems in such a way that the overreation is just as bad as the problem they are reacting from. Nations need to follow the Colombia and Brazilian lead when it comes to these issues and not react from one extreme to the other. The West in the US has helped in many ways these nations from these type of overreactions.

Fact is Somoza and the Santanistas were both wrong same goes with Chile with Pinochet and the Communists. You seem to deny the harsh realities of Grenada and Nicaragua for you are blinded by your bias against Reagan an your anti-Americanism.


Tony Buglass 11.01.08 at 12:12 am

“Fact is Somoza and the Santanistas were both wrong same goes with Chile with Pinochet and the Communists. …you are blinded by your bias against Reagan an your anti-Americanism.”

a) I don’t agree that the Sandinistas were wrong. IIRC, they were democratically elected The only violence they committed was in resistance to the oppression of the Somoza regime.

b) I’m not actually anti-American. But I have to be honest about what America has done. Perhaps you are blinded to the wrongs you have done by your patriotism, but I wouldn’t want to make that a basis for argument. That would be ad hominem, which is tantamount to waving a white flag and admitting you can’t argue the case, but are reduced to attacking the messenger. Which is what I think you have just done by calling me anti-American… ;)


dh 11.01.08 at 4:27 am

Santanistas are not wrong? Hitler was democratically elected. I wasn’t making the statment about being anti-American as a basis of my argument. I was only making an observation. I just think the you think the santanistas were okay shows that you truly don’t have a rational thought with regard to Nicaragua. Just because someone was democratically elected doesn’t mean that it is right or that it isn’t hurting the people. The minority within the country needs to be protected. I have heard of people who were part of Semosa who were arrested and beaten. You seem to neglect and pick and choose certain facts for your own benefit. You seem to not be rational or else you might not fully understand all of the facts with regard to Central America.

Santanistas ookay? Wow you trully have gone over the deep end and that isn’t ad hominum but an observation.


Tony Buglass 11.01.08 at 11:22 am

DH: ” You seem to not be rational or else you might not fully understand all of the facts with regard to Central America.”

Not rational? Because I disagree wth you? More ad hominem, I think…

For the record - I followed the events in Nicaragua and El Salvador very closely during the late 70s and early 80s. I have just spent some time re-reading some encyclopaedia articles on the history of Nicaragua to make certain my memory isn’t playing tricks, and it isn’t. I seem to fairly fully in possession of the essential facts about Central America.

The fact is that the US has interfered in Nicaragua for about a century, going back to its support for the Diaz administration (primarily self-interest). It was the US who engineered the establishment of the Somoza regime, one of the longest dictatorships in Latin American history. It was a corrupt and wicked regime, horribly oppressive, and murderous. The Sandinista revolution was born out of popular resistance to the evils of the Somoza regime, but the US supported Somoza - who had not only lost the support of his people, but also lost the support of the economic leaders through his miapproriation of elief funds after the 1972 earthquake. Somoza was evil, and his regime tyrannous - he was responsible for the uprising against him gaining such popularity, and thus responsible for his own downfall. The Sandinistas came to power through revolution, but went to the country in a democratic election - unlike the US-puppets of the Somozas, who took power through a a US-engineered pact, after which Somoza himself tok power through a rigged election in 1937. (I really don’t know how you can have the brass neck to defend any of this…)

The Reagan Administration, of course, hated the Sandinistats, and he set up the Contras to seek to undermine the new Nicaraguan Government. the Contras were terrorists, nothing less, acting with the full support of the US to destabilise a sovereign independent country.

I could go on, at length and in detail, but there is enough evidence there I think to show that the “facts with regard to Central America” do in fact support my case. Now, if you want to show that I have not understood them, please do so, but do so by reference to the facts themselves, rather than some lame ad hominem about my rationality. Or anti-Americanism - I have many US friends, I have family living in the US, I have hosted many Americans in my home, and hope to do so again. The point is, I believe in being honest with my friends, telling the truth in love. They do not thereby cease to be my friends.


Beth 11.01.08 at 1:52 pm

From Wikipedia:

Human Rights Watch also stated in its 1989 report on Nicaragua that: “Under the Reagan administration, U.S. policy toward Nicaragua’s Sandinista government was marked by constant hostility. This hostility yielded, among other things, an inordinate amount of publicity about human rights issues. Almost invariably, U.S. pronouncements on human rights exaggerated and distorted the real human rights violations of the Sandinista regime, and exculpated those of the U.S.-supported insurgents, known as the contras.”

The Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (ICCHRLA) in its Newsletter stated in 1985 that: “The hostility with which the Nicaraguan government is viewed by the Reagan administration is an unfortunate development. Even more unfortunate is the expression of that hostility in the destabilization campaign developed by the US administration… An important aspect of this campaign is misinformation and frequent allegations of serious human rights violations by the Nicaraguan authorities.”[72] Among the accusations in the Heritage Foundation report and the Demokratizatsiya article are references to alleged policies of religious persecution, particularly anti-semitism. The ICCHRLA in its newsletter stated that: “From time to time the current U.S. administration, and private organizations sympathetic to it, have made serious and extensive allegations of religious persecution in Nicaragua. Colleague churches in the United States undertook onsite investigation of these charges in 1984. In their report, the delegation organized by the Division of Overseas Ministries of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States concluded that there is ‘no basis for the charge of systematic religious persecution’. The delegation ‘considers this issue to be a device being used to justify aggressive opposition to the present Nicaraguan government.’”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in a 1981 report found evidence for mass executions in the period following the revolution. It stated “In the Commission’s view, while the government of Nicaragua clearly intended to respect the lives of all those defeated in the civil war, during the weeks immediately subsequent to the Revolutionary triumph, when the government was not in effective control, illegal executions took place which violated the right to life, and these acts have not been investigated and the persons responsible have not been punished.” The IACHR also stated that: “The Commission is of the view that the new regime did not have, and does not now have, a policy of violating the right to life of political enemies, including among the latter the former guardsmen of the Government of General Somoza, whom a large sector of the population of Nicaragua held responsible for serious human rights violations during the former regime; proof of the foregoing is the abolition of the death penalty and the high number of former guardsmen who were prisoners and brought to trial for crimes that constituted violations of human rights.”


Beth 11.01.08 at 2:28 pm

Kim, I still disagree with you, but the context helps. I also disagree with Ellis.

IMO, part of the problem with your take on WWI is that you’re romanticising those who died just as insistently as the patriots who see them as chivalric heroes do.

But maybe this is a discussion best had face-to-face? I fear I’ll only manage to insult you unintentionally again if we try to discuss this forum-wise!


dh 11.03.08 at 3:54 pm

No one is talking about the extreme hostility of the Santanista’s. The Contra’s weren’t terrorists they were Nicaraguan’s who were fighting for freedom from an evil regime of the Santanista’s.

Again, you never mention how bad and how torturous the Santanista’s were. Just because the people liked them doesn’t make them “good”. Just because a group is deomcratically elected doesn’t make them good. Heck, Hitler was democratically elected.

I totally don’t buy that human rights violatations were exaggerated with regard to the Santanista’s. The santanista’s were terrible.

Tony, I still believe that what you are saying is biased becuase the facts you say are facts are biased. You use “self-interest”, you mention murderous regime but don’t give facts, you fail to mention all of the many facts of terrible deads by the Santanista’s just because they were “democratically elected”, you call Contras “terrorists which is a value judgement but not fact, etc. You really don’t seem to understand the facts of the situation and fail to even acknowledge the basic understanding that the Santanista’s were terrible. The fact they wanted support from the Eastern Bloc, Soviets and Cuban Castro government plus all of the many human rights violations by the Santanista’s is more than enough to show at the very least that Samoza AND the Santanista’s were bad. That really is what I was trying to say that the problem with people is that they over react in such a way that the overreaction is just as bad as the problem they are reacting from.


Tony Buglass 11.04.08 at 10:22 am

DH ” The Contra’s weren’t terrorists they were Nicaraguan’s who were fighting for freedom from an evil regime of the Santanista’s.”

Well, before the Contras, there were the Sandinistas - who weren’t terrorists they were Nicaraguans, who were fighting for freedom from the evil regime of the Somozans. Bad argument, pal. Wha you have written simply proves nopthing other han you d not want to see anything bad about the ones you want to be the goodies, nor anything good aout those you want to be the baddies. But that has been the tone of your aguments since we started on this historical tack.

“The fact they wanted support from the Eastern Bloc, Soviets and Cuban Castro government plus all of the many human rights violations by the Santanista’s…” To whom else could they turn for justice? The US carried its Western allies with it, shouting down the Sandinistas and trying to isolate them. By comparison, did you know that Ho Chi Min turned to the US for help in 1945, was refused support, so turned to the Soviets - the rest is history. And you now continue to do what Beth has quoted the US government as doing back then - exaggerate the misdeeds of the Sandinistas in order to make the Contras look justifiable.

The violations committed by the Sandinistas were in the untidy aftermath of a long and dirty civil war. If they had had the support of the democracies, perhaps things woul have settled down more quickly. Instead, Reagan set up the Contras - who whatever you want to call them, were terrorists who continued to commit atrocities.


dh 11.04.08 at 2:40 pm

To whom they could turn to justice? themselves I also don’t believe that supporting Communists from the beginning would have helped the situation. I still don’t believe that the Contras were terrorists. I believe there were so many human rights violations but just because they weren’t supported in the beginning gives them no right to do what they did later. Also, the people of Nicaragua had no right to go in the oppostie direction. If they wanted change they should have done it in a different way than to turn to the terrible Communism.

Also, Ho Chi Minh didn’t deserve help because he too was a Communist. Supporting the French was the right thing to do. The people of Vietnam if they truly wanted change from the French should have done it without turning to Communism. Also, the majority of the Vietnamese didn’t support Ho Chi Minh (remember you need to spell his name right).

On a side note: Truman was asked by a reporter “What was your greatest regret as President? Thinking he would say the atomic bomb. Trumans answered that post WW2 he had the choice of supporting fully the French in Indochina or supporting the Nationalist Chinese under Chiang Kai-Shek. He said he supported the French.” How much better would China had been if the Americans supported Nationalist China?

I just don’t buy the argument that exageration of the misdeeds of the Santanista’s occurred. I believe all of those reports of the exaggeration were wrong and biased.


Tony Buglass 11.04.08 at 6:14 pm

DH: ” I still don’t believe that the Contras were terrorists.” “I just don’t buy the argument that exageration of the misdeeds of the Santanista’s occurred.”

Well, this is the hear of the matter, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what I say, or how much evidence I marshall, you will dismiss it beause it doesn’t fit your preconceived ideas. What you believe or refuse to believe isn’t the point - the truth is that the Contras were terrorists, set up by the Reagan administration after the Sandinista victory in order to destabilise the new Nicaraguan Government.

“Also, Ho Chi Minh didn’t deserve help because he too was a Communist. Supporting the French was the right thing to do. The people of Vietnam if they truly wanted change from the French should have done it without turning to Communism.”

Breathtaking, isn’t it? So French colonial imperialism was a Good Thing? I never ever thought I’d hear that from an American! The people of Vietnam wanted their country back; if the West wouldn’t help them, why wouldn’t they accept help from the ones who would - the Soviets? It isn’t rocket science.

You seem to assume in your arguments that communism is always bad, always evil, always deserving of the heaviest judgment from history, even if the alternative is the oppression and subjugation of the people. This smacks of hysterical McCarthyism. I am no communist, indeed I am seriously critical of communist regimes and their practices (I have recently returned from a visit to the church in Estonia, where I heard more stories and saw more signs of their suffering under the Soviets - I’ve been there and seen that, personally), but that doesn’t excuse the evils done in the name of anti-Communism, or in the name of capitalism.

I asked where the Sandinistas could turn for “justice” - for me, the most profound resonances of that word are in the message of the prophets, such as Am.5:24 - zedek and mishpat, justice and rightness. Ideologies of both Left and Right stand in judgement in the light of his justice. That is the light, tempered by the love of Jesus, by which I seek to analyse history and critique the actions of our leaders. That is a light which accuses both the violations and the evils of the Somozas and the Contras, together with the self-righteous lies of the Reagan regime in its meddling in the affairs of sovereign and independent Nicaragua.


dh 11.04.08 at 8:04 pm

Tony, how about your evidence being from your own preconceived ideas? I’m glad you know of the evils of Communism. Communism in every country has failed.

I still stand by what I said here: “The people of Vietnam if they truly wanted change from the French should have done it without turning to Communism.” The fact remains Ho Chi Minh would have been helped if he didn’t pursue a Communist philosophy. Therefore I DO understand why the US didn’t help him. Thank God there were the Hmong people who also wanted their own country and freedom but also did not want Communism. These are the true patriots.


Tony Buglass 11.04.08 at 10:59 pm

DH: “Communism in every country has failed.”

In fact, true communism, like true Christianity, has never really been tried. But let that pass, since I don’t want to defend an ideology which I don’t believe in.

“how about your evidence being from your own preconceived ideas?”

You need to distinguish between my evidence and my interpretation of that evidence. I freely admit that my politics are to the left of yours, and I’m not at all ashamed of that. However, the evidence I offer you (as I’ve noted elsewhere) is all hard evidence, which can be sourced without too much difficulty. Now, if you want to say the evidence is wrong, fine - demonstrate your case by the provision of contrary evidence. Simple contradiction cuts no ice, but so far, that has been your biggest counter to my arguments.

“These (the Hmong) are the true patriots.”

That’s your opinion. I don’t have any reason to doubt their patriotism, any more than I have to doubt the patriotism of Ho Chi Minh - where we differ is in our acceptance of his political ideology, as the tools by which his country could best be served. But this bald statement is nothing more than unsupported opinion. I’m not impressed.


Fabbs 03.10.09 at 3:42 am

What represents Abraham and Isaac in the poem? And what is the lesson or truth?


Beth 03.11.09 at 10:54 pm

Fabbs, you sound like you might be asking this for a homework assignment!

Here’s what I would say: this is a poem about war, and specifically about the First World War. Wilfred Owen’s conclusion is that “Abraham” has killed his own “child” as well as a huge number of other young men (”the seed of Europe”). So, if we see Isaac as being a symbolic representative of the young men who died in the War, we have to think about Abraham as in some way a father to those men - a figure of power who can control them. I suppose, therefore, that he’s talking about the politicians and the army commanders who sent the men to fight.

The message of the poem? That’s difficult. Pacifists might want to see it as a condemnation of war. I think that would be taking things too far. I think it is a specific condemnation of the First World War and the way it was fought, with massive loss of life of the men in the trenches.

Think about this, too - the poem has the structure of an unrhymed sonnet, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, with an added rhyming couplet at the end. What is Owen trying to do here? I think he’s presenting us, in the sonnet structure, with the story as it should be - Abraham binds his son but at the last moment is told to repent. But the rhyming couplet tells us that we can’t rely on the traditional tales and structures to protect us. There is a different conclusion, and it disregards the conventions, the “right way” of behaviour. Instead it causes atrocity and ties it up in a neat and apparently incontrovertible package. The rhyming couplet, compared with the unrhymed rest of the poem, is neat, a pat ending out of a nursery rhyme which seems to want to gloss over the horror lying beneath its words.

Well, that’s my two cents.


Kim 03.12.09 at 7:51 am

Make that two bucks, Dr. Beth.

(Beth, I hope she won’t mind me saying - and if she does, tough, ’cause I’m so proud of her - as well as loving her to bits! - just passed her viva for her PhD at Oxford - in English lit.!).

[Do I hear a standing ovation from all at Connexions?!]


Rachel 03.12.09 at 9:45 am

I’m on my feet! Well done Beth!


Tony Buglass 03.12.09 at 9:46 am

You do, indeed! Well done, Dr Beth (from a very happy Tony, who just passed his Masters a couple of weeks back).


Beth 03.12.09 at 10:31 am

:D Yeah, life feels pretty good!

And congrats to you, Tony. I hope you had cake? I had pizza (which to my mind is even better than cake!)


DH 03.12.09 at 3:24 pm

Well done Beth. I enjoyed the analysis. (standing ovation). Beth, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. So I can see why you had pizza. :)
and yes pizza is better than cake. Although I do like cake as well.

Beth, your a doctor? I didn’t know you had a Phd. What is it in?


Dr. Beth 03.12.09 at 4:14 pm

DH, I passed the examination for my PhD last week, so it’s a new thing. It’s about identity in Medieval English literature - how people think about themselves, and how they think about the communities that they belong to.

The pizza had goats’ cheese, olives, and red peppers. Heavenly!


Tony Buglass 03.12.09 at 5:11 pm

We had champagne. My wife was in York when I got the phone call, so I texted to tell her the news, and she brought a bottle home with her. It was lovely.


DH 03.12.09 at 5:35 pm

Tony, congratulations. What is your Masters in? Mine happens to be in Finance. Are you going for your Phd. or are you threw with school? Getting your Masters is a huge accomplishment. Great job, Tony. :)


Tony Buglass 03.13.09 at 10:22 am

The title was “The Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus” - sort of “Who Moved The Stone?” with proper critical scholarship. It sets the question against the background of the various Quests for the Historical Jesus, explores OT and intertestamental understandings of death and hope, and then examines the resurrection traditions in the NT to see how far they can be said to be based on history rather than created from myth/midrash. My conclusion is that you cannot “prove” the resurrection happened, but given the nature of the fall-out, it is the most probable of the various alternatives.

Think of someone examining the debris from a bomb crater, and being able to determine from the size and shape of the crater, amount and distance of debris, etc, how big he bomb was and how it was delivered. He cannot recreate the explosion or the bomb, but he can indicate its effects. Or cosmologists exploring the Big Bang: they can calculate all the way back to a micr-second after the event, but cannot recreate the event itself. In the same way, I envisage the resurrection as the Big Bang which produced the effects - the explosive growth of the Jesus movement, the complex of NT traditions, the practice of meeting for worship on the first day of the week, etc.

As to a Ph D - well, my prof said not to rule it out, but this took 9 years instead of the scheduled 4 of part-time study, so I’d be 85 by the time I got a doctorate! Juggling a clutch of Methodist churches with the other hand does get in the way a bit… But you never know.


DH 03.13.09 at 8:42 pm

Tony, sorry for promoting confusion. I was acually wonder what your Masters degree is in as opposed to what your dicertation (spelling?) is in. Sounds like a Phd. will be a lot of work. I think your Masters is quite an acomplishment and is a hearty kudos to you.

I’m sorry you don’t believe that the resurrection can be proven. For me what you happen to say regarding the resurrection and all is not “historical, myth or midrash” but clearly the Spiritual/theological, unless one sees (as you do) the historical of the clear Biblical prophecy in the OT of Jesus and the resurrection. I will say that many OT Jews who didn’t have Faith “missed the boat” (aka Pharisee’s).

I personally see the resurrection differently than you. I see the resurrection as having no other explainations that are credible because of the evidence whereas the Big Bang have multiple explanations as to the detail in terms of timeframe and chronolgy of events. I do see your point but it predisposes that the concept and views of the Big Bang are not static vs. resurrection of Jesus concept views being not static. When I believe that the Big Bang concept and views are static vs. the resurrection convept and views as being not static. I still get your point if I assume your view on the Big Bang, a view which I and others don’t believe, is true.


Tony Buglass 03.14.09 at 5:30 pm

Just to clarify - I’m not saying I don’t believe in the resurrection. I do. I believe very firmly it was a historical event.

The reason for talking the line I did in the dissertation (that’s how you spell it ;) ) was partly because that is the the lines along which critical scholarship has been arguing, and I wanted to understand and engage with that discussion, and partly because when I’m evangelising.pre-evanglesing, I have conversations in which people challenge and ask for proof. Telling them it had to be true ecause the Bible says so is useless. However, telling them that the evidence demands it is a bit more positive, because the sort of stuff I outlined above is something which can be argued regardless of faith.

Simply put, in that kind of conversation, you have to go onto their ground, not expect them to come onto yours. That’s the reason why I explored the evidence in the way I did.


DH 03.16.09 at 3:36 pm

Tony, everything you said in that last response was so cool. I totally agree with you, your line of reasoning, etc. when dealing with “evangelizing, pre-evangelizing, etc.” One of my favorite books is “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” what is interesting is how you are able to make strides with people who may never have had an interest in these type of things. Sounds like your dicertation (spelling?) is really good. :)
Great discussion and admonishment regarding this subject. I totally enjoyed it. :)

I still would like to know what the title your Masters degree is in.


KR 10.30.09 at 1:46 am

Wilfred Owen’s ‘The Parable of the Old Man and the Young’ displays great insight to that of World War 1. The way he uses Genesis’s Abram to symbolise the leaders of the governments of the countries involved, and use of the tale to inform others of his opinion of the war with the twist at the end of it is pretty amazing- especially considering his age (he died when he was like 25) and the time at which it was written.


bittyboo 12.15.10 at 2:52 am

the peom is about ww1 , european gov is abraham and the youth is the soldiers…euro to prideful to stop…they rather the men be dead etc etc, its elementary


dh 12.15.10 at 6:21 pm

(sarcasm) Love Tony’s equivicating on the patriotism between the Hmong/South Vietnamese government and the Viet Minh/Viet Cong. Tony asks “where can these people turn? They could turn to support of the Hmong. They could have realized like other nations did that independence takes time. Look at the nations of Central America some of them became indpendent too fast and others were allowed to be independent at the right time. All in all America always gave independence. Just look does America have American terroritory other than islands in the Pacific? no


..t.. 07.05.11 at 12:25 pm

great poem to listen to and refer back to the bible


BM 01.06.12 at 2:55 pm

I have to disagree with Beth. I think that Abraham in the parable ’symbolises’ the generals in the first world war and Isaac ’symbolises’ the soldiers in the sense that in WW1, the young soldiers were lead on by the generals and were like lambs to slaughter. The soldiers were made blind to the reality of the war which was they would ultimately die, like Isaac was blind to the fact that he would eventually die.
The phrase ‘offer the ram of pride instead of him’ relates to the generals being confronted with the option to keep their pride but sacrifice thousands of innocent soldiers or surrender and lose their pride but save the lives of thousands of soldiers. Abrahams actions in the parable reflects the actions of the generals in WW1 as Abraham spared the ‘ram of pride’ and killed his son like the Generals were to obnoxious to lose their pride, and so kept their pride by continuing the war except with the loss of thousands of you men.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>