17 November 2014
War and Humanity: Can They Coexist?
On October 22, 2014 a lone gunman shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo while guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Ironically, Corporal Cirillo, chosen as a member of the Ceremonial Guard, was on sentry duty when he was fatally wounded at the side of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Not much is known of this anonymous WWI soldier, other than he was chosen from Grave 7, Row E, Plot 8 of the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez, France. From 1,603 graves with no known identities, this Unknown Soldier’s remains were returned to Canadian soil in 2000. Cirillo, on the other hand, has become recognized as the modern symbol of Canada’s military heroism. A reservist with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and a young father with a contagious smile, Corporal Cirillo will always be remembered as the soldier who died for the love for his country and family. Two men - two soldiers - two causalities. Both chosen and honoured by their country, but for very different circumstances. One will forever remain entombed in anonymity and honoured for his military service in combat, while the other will forever be remembered for his sacrifice during a ceremonial post. Interestingly, Nigerian-American writer, Teju Cole echoes the devastating injustices that war has on humanity in his ingenuously and succinctly crafted “Seven Short Stories about Drones.” Specifically, through the use of tropology and rhetoric, Cole effectively shows how warfare is non-discriminating – it attacks those who are ready and waiting, but equally so, it will strike those who least expect it.
Cole’s use of allusions throughout “Seven Short Stories about Drones” effectively illustrates how war makes no distinction between soldier and civilian. Cole’s incredibly short stories, published on Twitter, allude to seven literary works’ introductory sentences. Each brief narrative begins with the words of a known writer and his/her recognized fictional character, triggering the reader’s memory of these famous works and their respective characters’ lives. Each story, no longer than two to three sentences, is followed by Cole’s rendition of how these fictional characters are permanently changed by modern warfare when it covertly and devastatingly kills them. In Cole’s dramatic revision of The Trial by Franz Kafka, Josef K., a wrongfully accused CFO of a Bank, is targeted and killed by a predator drone. This shocking event shows how drones have the technology to pinpoint targets. Similarly, Cole directly manipulates Mrs. Dalloway’s fate, when the 19th century societal housewife from London suddenly dies from a drone strike while shopping for flowers. By alluding to Virginia Woolf’s popular novel Mrs. Dalloway, Cole magnifies the horrors of technological warfare by pairing it to the secret weaponry of a drone that strikes and kills not only its targeted enemies but also innocent civilians, like Mrs. Dalloway. Cole’s effective use of an allusion dramatically and politically argues against the use of drones, which inadvertently destroy innocent lives, all in the name of warfare. By publishing the stories on Twitter Cole allows the international community of readers to relate to these popular characters. Allusions are a powerful tool to use as they propel the reader back to its original text; this recollection of the fictionalized character in his/her fictionalized former world is destroyed when Cole connects each allusion to the carnage of covert arsenal. The unknown casualties of war may not emotionally impact modern humanity, but Cole knows that many of his readers will be emotionally moved by the death of the characters that they have grown to recognize and identify with.