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The Song of Roland, Essay Example

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A modern version of The Song of Roland (c.1140) would involve International terrorism as the object of Western “crusade.” President George W. Bush famously called the American-based war on terror a “crusade,” because the conflict between western democracy and Islamic extremism is analogous to the religious wars of the Middle Ages. One of the most significant similarities between the crusades that are described in The Song of Roland and the modern war against terror is longevity of the war.   Just as Charlemagne in  The Song of Roland presides over a war-weary nation, the war on terror in modern times has weakened public support for the effort and caused  most Americans and Westerners to become “war weary.” This allows for a potential “surprise” attack such as that which is described in The Song of Roland when Marsile creates a plot to betray the Christians.

In addition to the modern substitution of terrorism for religion in regard to the underlying cause of the war, a modern telling of The Song of Roland would likely alter the heroic attributes of the title-character. Whereas in medieval times, Roland’s courage, honor, a religious fervor were celebrated, a modern military General would likely only be honored for his cunningness and vanity. Modern culture lacks any feeling for honor and heroicism and instead replaces inner-attributes with outer-attributes such as celebrity and wealth. Also, in modern times, Roland’s death in battle would not be viewed as an heroic accomplishment, but as a personal defeat because modern culture recognizes only the most blatant divisions between “winning” and “losing.” Also, the medieval mind had less fear of personal death and more faith in God and the promise of an afterlife, so elevating death to martyrdom was seen as desirable rather than weak and terrifying. Modern generals also do not fight in actual combat, but conduct combat by the use drones and by ordering lower-ranked soldiers to kill and die at their command.

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