We are studying World War I right now. I have checked the SL schedule, and I think we're here for, I don't know, a zillion weeks. At least, that's how it feels to me. Jo is none too thrilled, either. Our first day of reading our first history book on the topic found us squinting at a grainy, black and white photo that looked something like this:
"What's that... spraying?" Jo asked, poking her nose a little closer to the page.
"Liquid fire," Atticus answered. "The Germans used butane--"
Logan horned his way over the page in awe. "THAT'S a flamethrower?"
Dreamily, Atticus replied, "Oh, yeah."
Conjuring one of her trademarked, pre-teen-girl-in-disgust looks, Jo ventured, "And what are they flaming?"
"People. You just can't see them because of the smoke," was the answer Atticus offered.
And that was the end of WWI as far as Jo was concerned. There are some things that are incorrigible, but tolerable in her book. Burning people in trenches is most certainly not one of them. She'd much rather stick a daisy in the rifle butt of a "Hun" than singe his sauerkraut. And she's had absolutely no problem letting the rest of us know about it every afternoon as we crack the cover of the book.
Now, up until the liquid fire revelation, this period of history was still all heroism and romance as far as Jo was concerned. The idea of dashing young men flying bi-planes in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower had somehow set itself up in her mind. With scenes of Uncle Sam and propaganda leaflets dancing in her head, she had seemingly forgotten the limbless, haggard soldiers limping home after the Civil War. Or maybe she just didn't put two and two together; the truth is, world-wide wars rate much better spin doctors than civil wars any day. World wars, after all, get posters (and airbrushed saints called up to active duty):
I guess I could be pondering what, exactly, about the idea of burning an enemy alive in a muddy pit seems so appealing to my otherwise civilized little men. But instead, I find myself fixated on the fact that Jo--smart, thoughtful, follows themes to their logical conclusion Jo-- had somehow bought into the idea of US and THEM based mostly on a book about the Red Cross, a few Memorial Day parades and a handful of photos of aforementioned dashing young men piloting charming, antiquated bi-planes. It's amazing, really, the power that propaganda has even now, closing in on a hundred years after the fact.
We'll continue to trudge through the war, focusing mostly (to the chagrin of the boys) on the economic and societal ramifications of such a global conflict. I have a variety of wonderful resources at my disposal that will help to satisfy some of the testosterone-fueled hunger for a body count (including a very truthful, yet non-gory book from Usborne that I highly recommend). I expect that the weeks spent will feel like years to some of us and days to others. But in the end, we'll all come out wiser for the experience. Maybe, just maybe, Atticus and Logan will learn that designing elaborate devices to engulf one's enemy in fire is nowhere near as useful to society as building a good, strong bridge. And maybe Jo will learn an equally valuable lesson: be leery of men in flight goggles and crisp white scarves. They may very well be holding an incendiary device behind their back.