A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Marshall McLuhan’s war

Marshall McLuhan (March, 1944, age 32).  Uncle Sam may want me, but I don’t want to go

According to the draft board here in St. Louis I am 1A and have been so for the last three months, that is since getting my Ph.D.  (Cambridge giveth and Uncle Sam threatens to taketh away!)  If I am drafted I have two choices serve Uncle Sam or return to Canada to fight for King and country.  I’d rather do neither.  My friend Wyndham Lewis [see previous posts] has been giving me dark looks about this.  No matter here is my thinking. (1) I need to support my family, Eric is 3, and Corinne is expecting.  (2) I want to be with my family.  Assumption College in Windsor may make me an offer , if so I will bundle up the family and leave St Louis on the first train, and say “Adios St. Louis.”

Michael Hinton (2009, age 57).  McLuhan was no hero

In 1944 my Father was 17 years old when he signed up with the British Fleet Air Arm, after being turned down because of his age by the Royal Canadian Air Force.  He had a good war.  The war ended just as he completed his training to be a pilot.  In 1918 my Grandfather was 15 and fighting in France with the British Army.  He had a goodish war, he lived, but never talked about it.  Today with Canadian troops in Afghanistan and the peace movement forgotten behind us, it’s difficult to look back non-judgementally at McLuhan’s avoidance of the war and his frank admission that he wanted no part of it.  McLuhan’s biographers say little about this episode.  But it is hard not to look at it with the dark unwanted thought that McLuhan was afraid, and for good reason.  Teenagers do what they do for many reasons and unreasons.  What motivates a boy of 15, or 17 to want to fight in a war may be just as dark and forbidding to look at as what motivates a man in his 30s with a pregnant wife and a three-year old son not want to fight.

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada.  What would you have done in Marshall McLuhan’s position?  Who and what are you remembering today?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Handbook for Conscientious Objectors.  Edited by Arlo Tatum.  Published by the CCCO, an agency for military and draft counciling, established in 1948.  12th edition, April, 1972.

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 156-157.

Michael Hinton Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Permalink 1930s and 40s, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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