Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Little Red Pack

People often ascribe the inability to quit smoking to a weak will. In reality, it is well known that many great men smoked, like Churchill, Mao Zedong etc. The smokers all around us now are also people of outstanding character. They have a great deal of determination and strength. The courage that they show in the face of unforeseen events- a courage that many non-smokers are unable to muster- is unforgettable.

Look at what we know about dictators: Louis XIV, Napoleon and Hitler all abhorred smoking. Napoleon once instituted a country-wide smoking ban. Dictators are completely opposed to people gratifying their desires. Hitler harbored a rigid, fierce hatred of smoking. The only person he allowed to smoke in his presence was Mussolini.

In the midst of war, however, cigarettes prove their unique worth. They can be the most valuable weapons in the arsenal, as valuable as gold, and more valuable than food. A general who is now an official at the Ministry of Defense wrote in a letter:

"You ask me what we need to win the war. I tell you we need cigarettes, more cigarettes- cigarettes even more than food. Smoking cigarettes can temporarily conceal brutal reality and help soldiers find a moment's rest. They not only produce the feeling of being under anesthesia but can help the smoker forget the present and, like a two faced god, remember the past and dream of the future. A general once said: "The cavalryman who doesn't smoke is hopeless as a soldier."

His affirmation brings to mind the image of the Marlboro man- deep in the mountains, relyng on his own strength as he contends with nature.

Even as people are being executed, the only thing they can think about is smoking a cigarette. In the middle of their last cigarette, they can get past their fear, face their chosen destiny and calmly accept death. Today, in wartime situations, cigarettes are millions of people's favorite thing, the last thing left that brings them adventure and meaning....

-tobacco information website of the Chinese government-

1 comment:

  1. Pvt. John Mckinney won a Congrssional medal of honor in W.W.II in the Philippines, single handedly killing over one hundred attacking Japanese, many of them in hand-to-hand combat.

    He never did like to talk about it all that much. One presumes he didn't actually feel all that brave at the time. Certainly the tactics of his attackers were suicidal and most of them were at least half-starved. After the war he lived a modest and uneventful life in the Geogia countryside. From time to time some media reporter would show up to ask him about the remarkable events of that day.

    Jack Finch, one of J.R.'s hunting friends, was with him during the interview (in 1966, twenty years later), and remembered one particular question asked about the battle of Dingalan Bay.

    "Weren't you afraid?". The reporter studied J.R.'s wrinkled, suntanned face and waited for an answer.

    J.R. stared off in another direction

    The reporter tried a different approach. "Didn't you have any fear?"

    Still no answer. Perhaps J.R. was creating a dramatic, newsworthy answer. Or did he even hear the question?

    The reporter pushed. "Is there anything that really scares you?"

    Finally, McKinney turned to look the man in the eye.

    "Scare me?" J.R. answered. "Yep. What scares me is to be a way out there in the field...all alone. Ain't no one near...ain't nothing there but me an an ocean of cotton. Then I reach in my pocket and realize.. I done run out of bakke [tobacco]. Now, that can scare any man!"

    J.R. grinned as if satisfied with his teasing reply

    Phantom Warrior; The Heroic True story of PVT. John McKinney's One-Man Stand Against The Japanese in World War II by Forrest Bryant Johnson;