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Who are the oppressors? The few: the King, the capitalist, and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat. -“Knights of Labor-The New Dynasty,” Mark Twain

American Flag redesigned by Mark Twain in 1901.

American Flag redesigned by Mark Twain in 1901.


Mark Twain – author, humorist, voice of reason – wrote The War Prayer in 1905. It was not published until 1923 due to Twain’s own hesitations about sharing his sentiments publicly and Harper’s Bazaar’s refusal to publish the piece. After the the “fervent appeal” by a preacher (“Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”), “an aged stranger,” who entered without notice, steps to the lectern. Reminding the parishioners of the “unspoken part of the prayer”: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words.’ He closes the “message from Almighty God”:

O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakeswho adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

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