The Guns of August

August 1, 2014.

I am so grateful for these beautiful and calm summer days this year, with low humidity and soothing temperatures. I pray we all have time to enjoy them. Especially after the winter we had I am soaking up every bit of this summer heaven.

Hundred years ago, my great-grandfather in Brussels had a similar summer that started calm and promising. While military rhetoric had been in the air, he and most people in Europe didn’t really expect a war to unleash. But the Great War, as it was later called, became unavoidable, when Serbian terrorists killed the archduke of Austria in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. A month later, Austria retaliated and invaded Serbia. By August, given the international alliances of that time, a war of unseen amplitude quickly spun out of control. With the colonial territories that the European nations controlled, soldiers from all over the world were lined up at the frontlines, where the guns of that summer, August 1914, shopped them into pieces. My great-grandfather would spend two rounds of 18 months in the trenches.
But even though the advanced military equipment brought rapid and unimaginable devastation, it took four more years for military and political leaders to bring their 19th century mindset up to speed with the 20th century technology. Hundred years later we see more clearly just how much European leaders acted like sleepwalkers.

While we commemorate the start of this Great War this year, we also pray that the Europeans will be more awake this go around, with a risky military line up gathering in the Ukraine this summer. Clearly, we should never take peace for granted. As my great-grandfather told us: even when summer is soothing and calm, our thanksgiving should join the plea for peace.



  Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August
  Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers