The paradox of Remembrance

My cousin recently admired a wreath of white poppies placed by veterans for peace – a thought provoking demonstration.

Every year on Poppy Day I remember friends who died futilely in a colonial bush war and those scarred and embittered for life by the perfidy of Albion and the ever changing values of human kind in that little war.

I remember the father of a friend who some twenty years after ceasefire, succumbed to his anguish over his survival but his tank crew’s incineration at El Alamein.

I am moved to tears by the tributes and honour and respect shown by people of the world at the tombs of countless unknown warriors and ponder on the glory of war.

What jarred me this year as I read Facebook tributes for ancestors with the echoes of Last Post ringing in my ears, was this one: In memory of my grandfather, Arthur Imaginary, machine gunner 2nd Batt Intrepids, died 15 Mar 1915.

I wondered how many widows and orphans were the harvest of granddad’s machine gun.

…and this is only one side!

Talk about yin and yang: we glorify and honour someone while others mourn his military proficiency.

In every war, all soldiers are told God is on their side – I don’t think God takes side, S/He just keeps score. Surely priests know that?

My scepticism is also aroused by the coincident utility of military honour for all the -isms and -ists and -iots.

The iron duty imposed by the popular poem is hard to deny:

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

I am the product of generations of soldiers; my father, uncles, grandfathers and my son all served in wars in distant lands.

I cannot deny that I believe in and admire soldiers. I guess that means I can’t believe that people can live in peace.

In Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Oh so many…

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872–1918)

Author: manqindi

Post imperial wind drift. Swazi, British, Zimbabwe-Rhodesian, Irish, New Zealand citizen and resident, now in Queensland, Australia. 10th generation African of mainly European descent. Catholic upbringing, more free thinker now. BA and Law background. Altar boy, wages clerk, uncle, prefect, student, court clerk, prosecutor, magistrate, convoy escort, pensioner, HR Practitioner, husband, stepfather, father, bull terrier lover, telephone interviewer, Call Centre manager, HR manager, grandfather, author (amateur)

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