Strange Bedfellows: Love and War

As Inevitable as Death and Taxes?

Posted Jun 21, 2015

The month of June is traditionally the time for weddings. Newspapers, magazines, and all forms of social media are teeming with photos of beaming grooms and blushing brides. Wait a minute. Do brides still blush? Somehow, I doubt it. 

In any case, I wish them well, and can't help admiring their courage and wondering at their optimism.  (Would it be too cynical to mention the divorce rate in this country? Yes, it would.) Please understand that I have nothing against marriage, per se. I've done it myself, but I have to agree with Ovid, the Roman author and poet, who wrote that love is "a kind of warfare." At least on that point, Ovid and I are on the same page, so to speak.   

Of course love and marriage, not to mention warfare, has seen many changes since I was young. Back then, men went off to fight and women kept the home fires burning for them. Nowadays women are going off to fight, too, and we have an "all volunteer" military instead of the draft.

In my memoir, "In Love and War," I confess that I "fell for a uniform," as a freshman in college, and hastily married a boy in the Navy who was shipping out for a tour of duty that would last a year, despite being told that the "police action" in Korea would be over by Christmas. Today, Korea is called "America's Forgotten War," and there have been many wars since then, some more memorable than others. Over time I have seen changes in the way wars are fought, and our attitude toward them as well. Even the uniforms have changed. Would I have fallen for what look to me like  "camouflage pajamas" worn by servicemen now? I don't think so!

Was World War II the last "good" war, as it has been called? Or is "good war" really an oxymoron? Despite isolationists who advocated minding our own business after Hitler began enslaving Europe, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 convinced President Roosevelt that the only choice was to join our European allies in a war to stop Axis aggression. Patriotism, not seen since the 1940's, united Americans of all walks of life. Women, inspired by "Rosie the Riveter" posters, took off their aprons and put on overalls to build ships and planes in the war factories. Ordinary Americans cheerfully accepted the hardships and inconvenience that went along with rationing of everything from food and shoes to gasoline. 

That was then. Now is now. These many years later, Americans are being called "war weary" and many lack enthusiasm for continued involvement in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where we have stayed too long, or perhaps never should have gone in the first place. 

What has all this to do with Ovid and his belief that love is a kind of warfare? And what exactly did he mean by it, anyway? In my opinion, that is open to individual interpretation. But if we have learned anything from history, it is that two things (besides death and taxes) are inevitable. They are love and war.