Vae Victis

By Bohdan Sirant, 2012 Many years ago when I was just a kid several young, lean and strong men all vital, virile, dashing and handsome all made of sterner stuff would come over to visit my dad especially when my mom was out to smoke, play cards and drink beer on hot summer afternoons or evenings I remember them shirtless in the back yard or when the colder weather came huddled by the stove in the smoke-filled kitchen They would get me to empty ashtrays, take away the empties and bring fresh bottles They would tell jokes slapping their thighs at the punch lines and tell all kinds of weird and strange stories about the war about the fantastic things they did and saw and discuss the news Eisenhower, MacArthur and what the Bolsheviks bastards were up to They all had unique scars but an identical tattoo just like my dad’s of a golden lion on a blue shield with the words Vae victis on a banner beneath They would laugh and get drunk and sing all kinds of songs with gusto and call each other “Brother” and pat each other on the back I asked one of them what

Vae victis meant and he said It was a wise warning from long, long ago to always remember the dreadful consequences of losing and to remember what was really at stake in a fight whether a skirmish, battle or a war He said it was a motto to inspire one to fight harder and longer than the enemy to never give up. He put his arm around me and said, “Kid, you hear us laughing now. Why? Because we were the lucky ones… but when you are unlucky, or on the losing side, you can be bound hand and foot sold as slave slaughtered like a lamb, or be thrown into a fiery pit or the darkest dungeon. And few will give a damn. For the losers, there is anguish, suffering and crying grief and suffering, coldness, hunger, and regret, bitterness and pain. All of us here have seen it, boy, and a lot of it. Don’t be fooled The world seems nice now but can quickly become a cruel and evil place a hell filled with armed monsters in human form, horrible killers, murderers, thugs, thieves and liars, hypocrites, calculators, callous cynics manipulators, schemers and tricksters and all manner of bloodsucking parasites many with a philosophy to ensnare and bamboozle you to cheat you to take what’s yours away from you

including your life The world is like a deceptively beautiful and enchanting forest or orchid-filled jungle but where fierce predators lurk and serpents slink and prey upon the innocent, naive and unwary. So look out and be prepared for the fight that’s coming, boy You will have your fight just like we have had ours And our fathers had theirs We guarantee it Know what’s at stake, and heed the warning, son Vae Victis! Woe to the Vanquished! Remember those sacred words lest you are among those thrown out of the kingdom Into the smoky darkness where there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Don’t be caught sleeping but train for the good fight so you can be brave and at your best And a free warrior who liberates the oppressed Chant “Vae victis!” every day to overcome your doubts and fears and think on its meaning to bolster your courage in the coming dangerous years “Amen to that!” “Well said!” “Here, here!” “Yes, siree!” and “Vae victis!” “Woe to the Vanquished, boy!” the others exclaimed, raising and clinking their glasses “Here's to the land we love and the love we land!” “Be proud to serve and don’t loose your nerve!” “To soldiers’ arms and women’s charms!” “Death to Enemies!”

“Long live Death!” “Be quick or be dead!” “Better dead than Red!” “De Oppresso Liber!” “To hell with fear!” “Bear up and bear down!” “To rich dames in gowns and poor ladies bare We love them just the same We love them anywhere!” “Blouses down and bottoms up!” “Our honor untarned Our country well armed!” And other ribald toasts Macho boasts And rowdy cheers “Now be a good boy” my father then softly said as he lit another cigarette and wiped away his streaming tears “Go get another deck of smokes, son and bring us a few more beers.”

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