Top 10: TOP 10 Poetic entries from William Stanford

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With the polarizing atmosphere in today’s society, it’s time we take a moment to appreciate the words of William Stanford, one of the great American poets of the 20th century.

Stanford spent four years in conscientious objectors’ camps in California, Arkansas and Illinois during World War II. Afterward, he grew intellectually but always kept his view that war was not the answer.

His poems and journal entries shine a light on the thought process of the individuals responsible for holding back mankind. These are some of my favorite passages from “Every War Has Two Losers.”

10. “Those who champion democracy, but also make a fetish of never accepting anything they don’t agree with – what advantage do they see in democracy?”

–Sept. 22, 1967

9. “Two cultures surround us. One assumes that short-term evasions for long-term goods will prevail: selling, promoting, elocution, patriotism, orthodoxy, forensics, officialism –these characterize that culture. The other relies on some kind of human immediacy and long-term rationale: professionalism, counseling, personal allegiances, quick perceptions, freedom – these characterize the second culture. Any artist lives by the second. Writers, teachers, friends obviously ally themselves with the second. Any authoritarian regime links to the first.”

–Aug. 6, 1975

8. “Some people are idealists: they keep leaning to make the world different. They should face up to the way things are, and accept them.”

“Well, my leg is broken – I guess I’ll just like that strange angle my leg has as it lies there.”

–May 1, 1979

7. “In that war we persuaded ourselves that the people we were killing were really bad.”

-Feb. 2, 1982

6. “Recently a new serenity has touched me, and a feeling of wisdom. No, this is not a proud feeling, a feeling of being in control, but an acceptance of not being in control.”

–March 5, 1991

5. “Many questions: is it better to be a big country, or a little country? Is it better to be safe by being strong, or by being friends?”

–Oct. 11, 1982

4. “The wars we haven’t had saved many lives.”

–March 31, 1985 

3. “Fool that I am, I keep thinking things will work out, that we can coast along while injustice prevails, and somehow it will change.”

–April 11, 1986

2. “Living traditionally, the country life, we cultivate the ground. We know the seed will produce after its kind. Why then do we sow suspicion and hatred in some places? If we show goodwill, honesty, reliability, industry, thrift, cheer, will these tend to produce those qualities in others around us? And the contrary is true too? But do we have enemies? Whence came their feelings toward us? Can a serenity view and understand?”

–Oct. 11, 1978

1.“Success may not mean you did right.”

–July 30, 1987

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