Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shoot straight, you bastards...

...or your History Lesson For Today!

Harry Morant was an Australian/English soldier and poet who fought for the Crown during the Boer Wars in South Africa in the latter part of the 19th century. For those of you who haven't ever clicked the "Random Article" button in Wikipedia, the "Boer Wars" was a fancy name for one of those routine cans of whoop-ass that Britain was known to quite regularly open up all over the previous settlers of a land they wanted to occupy whenever said peoples had the nuts to raise their hands (guns, clubs, pointy sticks, etc.) collectively and say "Erm...Not to be rude, but...we sort of live here." To which some impossibly mustachioed general (perhaps wearing a monacle, I haven't decided) would then reply "The sun shall never set on the Empire!" Then, a whole lot of better-armed but very polite and well spoken invaders would jump out and yell "Bloody well right!" and then...I don't know, crumpets or something. End result = South Africans kind of have a British accent. And so do Indians. And people from New England (I know, I was surprised, too. I lived there my whole life and just assumed the name was a freak coincedence. You know, like New Coke.)

Anyway, old Harry up there, along with a few buddies, killed a mess of Boer prisoners of war one day, acting on orders from his commanding officer (allegedly). Also, he killed some German guy who happened to witness it. Also, I think some kittens. So, the LDIC (Limey Dudes In Charge, stay with me here, people, I can't take time to explain all my acronyms) arrested Harry and his buddies and held a court martial; which for the British is a tea party where one guy doesn't get biscuits. Skip ahead, and Harry and his accomplices are sentenced to death by firing squad.

It turns out that his commanding officer probably did send a telegram telling his men to, in effect, just kill the living hell out of any Boer officers wearing khaki. Whether or not khaki was the uniform color of high ranking officers or this guy hated the Gap as much as I do (with all of my tiny, black soul) remains a mystery (or not, I may just have skipped that part). And also, the Boers in question may or may not have killed Morant's bestest friend in the whole world, mutilating him horribly (seriously.) Bummer. And, on the day of the execution, "as the afternoon wore on, all the prisoners could clearly hear the sound of coffins being built in the nearby workshop"...Double whammy.

Why bring up this seemingly minor event in British colonial history at all? Because fuck you, I find it interesting. And because Morant eventually became something of a folk hero. In Australia, much as in Ireland, if you get fucked by the British and someone writes it down, the folk hero thing is almost automatic. Then you get a movie made about you. Seriously, it's called Breaker Morant and it got nominated for an Oscar in 1980.

Of course, it turns out it's total bullshit. The transcripts of the court martial mysteriously disappeared from the House of Commons, and most of Morant's story was probably made up so some dude who was supposedly there could sell a bunch of books.

Again, why even bring it up when there are literally THOUSANDS of folk heroes across the world whose stories are probably just as much bullshit? (Hell, even Gandhi was, in reality, kind of a douche.)

Simple answer. Morant's last words as he faced a line of men armed with rifles pointed directly at his center mass:

"Shoot straight, you bastards. Don't make a mess of it."

How bad ass is that?! I'm pretty sure Gandhi's last words were something about really wanting a sandwich. (Actually, Gandhi had probably the most genuine last word ever. According to a witness, after he was shot, Gandhi made a noise like "Uh...." and then collapsed against a wall. You try to say anything sage like after you get shot. See if you can top "Uh...")

The End.

No comments:

Post a Comment