War is Hell. That’s how I really feel.

I received this comment the other day, in response to the post “What do military helmets have to do with knitting?“:

this edition is too military for me…  I wanted to buy it but I am not a USA patriot and I dislike these military themes… I think we should try to live in peace and not celebrate war times in the momentary difficult situation (Ukraina….)

Oh my goodness! It distresses me beyond measure that anyone would think I am celebrating war times or that I encourage patriotism!

I’m so sorry if the posts I’ve made about Stories In Stitches 3 have not made it clear that 1)  I do not support war in any way whatsoever, and I do not believe there is any such thing as a good, just, or righteous war and 2) I despise patriotism and nationalism and consider both to be dangerous and pernicious.

(I have written about the situation in Ukraine briefly before and am working on a longer essay about that situation that I hope to be able to post here soon.)

World Wars 1 & 2 were two of the most hideous events ever to take place on planet Earth. I do not celebrate these wars through knitting and remembrance. I mourn the events and every soul lost through the violence caused by patriotism, nationalism, and human intolerance. The knitting projects in Stories In Stitches 3 are all symbols of peace and hope.

The Dancing Stitches Socks tell the story of my great-great grandmother who was born in Russia in a Jewish shtetl (village) before WW1, and are a memorial toward all of the other Jewish grandmothers who knit and lived and loved in Eastern Europe at that time, but who did not have the fortune to come to America before their world was destroyed by the hatred and violence of the Nazis.

The Flying Fish Knee High Socks are my interpretation of Marc Chagall’s paintings of similar motifs, which were inspired by his father’s work as a fish monger in another Russian shtetl during the same time period. Many of the most poignant of Chagall’s paintings are those he created during the Second World War when he was in the United States. These paintings are are currently  in the exhibit “Love, War, and Exile” at the Jewish Museum in New York.

Vilna Synagogue by Marc ChagallThe old shul, the old street

I painted them just yesteryear.

Now smoke rises there, and ash

And the parokhet is lost.

–Marc Chagall,
after visiting the Vilna Synagogue

The Hiroshima Peace Socks are inspired by a pair of fabric slippers in Ishiuchi Miyako’s photography collection, ひろしま hiroshima. Double knitting creates a two-layer sock that replicates the two layers of fabric used in the originals. In the title of her collection, Ishiuchi uses a special kind of writing, called Hiragana, that was solely used by women in times past. She says, “Using this way of Japanese writings for the title means to the artist that this series is made by the point of view and feelings of a woman.” I’ve used standard Kanji characters to write Peace on my socks. The knitting itself represents women’s work to me, and the frequent status of women as civilians, unwilling participants, and victims of sexual abuse and violence during war.

The three helmet liners, designed and knit by Ava Coleman, although originally made for soldiers, also speak to me of hope for future peace, as Ava’s story “Travel with Colette” shows that, like so many other things that have been invented for military uses these knitted hats can find new life in peace time. I also find the photo of my cousin’s son wearing the green hat to be a strong message of peace for the future. And the dolls designed and knit by Rohn Strong speak to the loss and terror that children face in war, and how knitted and hand-made items can provide a small measure of comfort in the face of terrible loss.

I know that many people, and Ava may be one of them (I haven’t asked her), see World War 2 and a “necessary evil” and a war that was fought for noble causes and that America “won the war” and stands as a heroic nation because of our part in conquering the Axis powers, including the Nazis and the Japanese. Many Americans even justify our use of the atomic bomb. Personally, I think that is all a huge load of horseshit (or propaganda, if you prefer). Of course, it doesn’t matter what I say about this particular war, there will be people who strongly disagree with me and who will choose not to follow me or to buy my books because of it. I just want to make sure that those of you who may disagree with me, do so because we actually disagree, not because I’ve failed at communicating how I truly feel.

Whether you buy Stories In Stitches 3 or not, I hope that you will all stand by me in supporting peace and humanism, rather than being part of the violent conflicts so often caused by patriotism and nationalism.

Knitting, Old Blogs, Writing
  1. Ludmilla Rowinsky 05/07/2014 at 12:37 pm Reply

    That is a thoughtful reply, Donna. I’ve been a pacifist practically since I was born. Patriotism, especially as defined by modern politicians, is not what is needed in the world today. Respect for others and love for our beautiful planet is important. I love to read other people’s stories and autobiographies and anecdotes. My favorite quote ever is “I am part of all that I have seen.” Most people alive today have experienced war in one way or another and that experienced is part of them now. If that experience keeps them from wanting to read about war, I understand. I want to be reminded that war is not good for children and other living things when my emotions slide towards anger and hatred. Women’s stories about war, such as you and Ava have recalled, are even more important, because women’s stories haven’t been heard enough.

    • Donna Druchunas

      Here’s a note from Ava:

      For good or ill eras are frequently identified by words rather than dates. For example: Great Depression, Hurricane Sandy, and more close to my home, Colorado’s Year of the Flood. This is the case with our latest volume. Yes, the historical examples in Stories In Stitches volume 3 are from a harsh time, but the projects we feature brought comfort to the recipients. We hope the featured projects, derived from them, will be treated with the same appreciation. To me, Colette’s Story shines as an example of this.

      Stories In Stitches is lovingly created to show the human side of historical knitting. Sometimes it doesn’t dawn on any of us that every knitter today is creating a piece of history, just like those knitters during the World Wars. I can only hope that what I do personally will reflect a respect for what I tell of the past and design for present. Our goal is to keep knitting history from being lost. We make every effort to do it gently and honestly.

  2. Whatever!!! It makes no difference what you say someone will always disagree. Who among us “likes” war and atrocities and everything that goes along with it. Tell her if she doesn’t have something nice to say about your writing, then don’t say anything. Nobody is twisting her arm to buy your book but I’m waiting patiently for all 3 of mine. Happy Mother’s Day to me!!

    • Donna

      Thanks for your support, Elaine. But the commenter wasn’t being mean or out of line. I appreciate her input as well and I want to make sure my promotional messages are clear about the content of the books and my own values.

    • Elaine,

      there are times when war is omnipresent and creeps into all dimensions of life.
      And we live in such a period. I live in Europe and I notice that all day long.

      It seems that 100 years after WW1, a war which was started by ignorance, patriotism and arrogance, the lessons of that war are not learned and Europe is “talked into” war by ignorant politicians, whether elected or not, and by other irresponsible people in the omnipresent media.

      Omnipresence produces habituation and that is what I fear and why I commented.

      • Donna Druchunas

        Connie, I couldn’t agree more. The mood and political ideas in Europe and the USA are very disturbing. There is much too much violent language being used and much too much fear and loathing of the “other”. There is also a LOT of of ignorance and misinformation being spread. I notice this most in the USA because that’s where I live. We always have to be the hero and in the center of the stories we tell, which distorts history and leads to even more repetition of dangerous past patterns. I’m glad you took the time to comment again.

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