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September 2007
An Online Prayer for Peace

Mark Twain wrote The War Prayer 100 years ago in the disillusionment of an old man with the eternal folly of man pursuing wars that purportedly solve momentary problems at the cost of monumental suffering. Markos Kounalakis, an experienced foreign correspondent who had seen the folly of men and wars firsthand, kept the poem in the back of his mind for years before deciding the time had come to resurrect its message. And, of course, he did it through the modern medium of film and exposure first on YouTube.

Mark Twain’s poem never saw the light of day in his lifetime, even somebody as fabled as Twain couldn’t get the powers to be of the time to buck the government and publish it. The poem might have never seen the light of day again today (or received any sort of exposure) without the global reach of online portals like YouTube, which have become the most direct expression of any kind of expression, silly, fatuous, but also serious and somber, such as the 14-minute film of The War Prayer. It will continue to haunt the Web and reverberate in the online universe in ways that Twain himself (a sucker for new gadgets—one of which bankrupted him) would have been astonished to see.

In more local storms, there is a man in Louisiana, born and bred, who made himself very successful in business, and in the confidence of a self-made man and the tradition of all Louisiana politicians, is bucking to take on the devastation of Katrina and rebuild his state. John Georges is not afraid of another Katrina; he says the state has made great strides in shoring up New Orleans, and he says Louisiana is actually doing well. It has a surplus and with a hard-nosed governor in office seasoned in business (he built the family wholesale grocery distribution business into a half a billion dollar empire) the state can reap the accumulated windfall sitting jammed in the pipeline from Washington and become an economic powerhouse again. Unfortunately, he measures only 8% in the latest polls among the declared candidates, but he’s confident he can pull an “October Surprise,” and the frontrunner will topple from his 50% perch, and the two will go head-to-head in the general election.

We wish him luck. His confidence can be refreshing in the face of the sobering thoughts of The War Prayer, and in the midst of another war where final victory has been proven, once again, the eternal chimera.

Dimitri C. Michalakis

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