On Patton and Hinduism

As well as being Veteran’s Day, tomorrow (November 11) is also the birthday of George S. Patton, Jr. – “Old Blood and Guts.”

I happened to teach a lesson on Hinduism at school today, and it reminded me of Patton, even before I realized it was the eve of his birthday.

A core belief of Hinduism is, of course, reincarnation. Patton was also a big believer in reincarnation. He thought he had fought previously (in past lives)at many of the places he visited during his World War II campaigns.

Another core belief of Hinduism, and an adjunct to reincarnation, is the idea of “keep doing it until you get it right.” My understanding is that Hindus believe that people are born over and over again until they live the perfect life and can reunite with Brahman, the creator.

Assume for a moment, forgive me, that Patton actually was Hannibal in a previous life. And assume that reincarnation exists. It makes sense. They both had tragic flaws.

Hannibal was bent on avenging his father Hamilcar’s failures against the Romans in the First Punic War. His flaw made him lead his men on a wild, ill-fated invasion of Italy from Spain. Ultimately, he died basically in disgrace, never having fulfilled what he deemed as his destiny.

Similarly, Patton had a tragic flaw. Better make it many tragic flaws. He was hot-tempered, rebelled against authority, was unforgiving, and intolerant too, even for the time in which he lived.

Both were also military geniuses, and Patton, at least, was driven to succeed like few others.
I’m not sure what all this really means. Perhaps it means that, like it or not, we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes (whether we know our history or not). Or, perhaps it really means we do have a chance to make up for our mistakes, even if we do repeat them a few times on the way.
After all, Patton did help save the world from Nazism, even if he was an old coot. He did inspire his men to do things that those under the command of others might not. He was an American hero, flaws and all.

So, I guess the ultimate question is who is Patton now? And who was I before? Aw...maybe some other time.

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