Saturday, 25 April 2015

Lest We Forget

War is revolting in every way. The violence, bloodshed and horrific events of war that cloud our human history are things that many great and educated minds have discussed endlessly, great writers have written millions of words about it, artists depict it and politicians encourage it, but for me war is simply abhorrent.

That being said there is also an aspect of every great struggle that shows that as humans we have some saving graces. Courage in the face of adversity, strength of character, overcoming fear to carry on, helping others, doing what is deemed right no matter how difficult the journey, sacrifice for others and protecting something precious.  As precious as the freedom for me to sit here and write about it. As precious as the freedom for me to express my abhorrence and know that I can do so safely and comfortably without fear of some violent human intervention such as imprisonment, torture and death.

Commemorating the commitment made by military and support personnel who fought for those freedoms is the least I can do to show my gratitude for their sacrifices.

I read this morning about some students who spat on veterans and I thought about the irony in that. Those veterans fought to protect the rights of the students to protest, however ugly their choice of protest, those students were free to express their opinion because of the commitment made by those very veterans they spat on.  No one shot the students, no one imprisoned them and the students went away feeling smug satisfaction that they had made their point without looking over their shoulders to see if they were being tracked down.

A local woman complained about the quality of the trumpeter at the dawn service last year. The trumpeter was a very young boy from a local school who had been volunteered into playing. She lives in a country where she is free to complain without fear of physical violence for expressing her opinion, just as the boy who played was free to wake up from his snug warm bed and play in 4oC on unwarmed brass to show his respect and make his parents and friends proud of his achievement. It is because of the people who chose to go and protect those rights that we commemorate ANZAC. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
 Australians are not as gung ho patriotic as Americans and not as Monarchist as the Brits and in general we tend to laugh at the pomposity of authoritarian styles of politics. We tend to consider our own politicians a pack of galahs and although we hope they do a good job of the administrivia of running the country we also assume they will stuff up. Meeting a politician, even the prime minister is less of a pomp and circumstance for us than it seems to be for others around the world. They are just people. However underneath we have this sentimental patriotism that we will never really admit is there for fear of being seen as a wuss(and other euphemisms for weak) but we do get a tear in our eye for the 'digger'(trench digger of WW1) and the ANZACs, for the bravery of the blokes (and sheilas)behind the Eureka rebellion, for the Lone soldier, and Simpson's donkey, the smuggled dogs who saved soldiers with their keen hearing.  Sentimental realists I think. We know that war is bloody and ugly and an unfortunate consequence of shifting political alliances but we celebrate the positive and amazing sacrifice made by those who serve their country, this country and our close neighbours and friends in New Zealand. 

Australia is young on the global stage and our sense of who we are is still evolving and the ANZAC legend forms a strong foundation for what it means to be Australian.  
There are many good posts about the details of what it all means and what the history is, if you are interested just type ANZAC into your preferred search engine. Suffice it for me to say that today I will hold a minutes silence in respect for all those who died so I could sit here and type this blog post in comfort and safety. 

Anzac - ╦łanzak/noun
noun: Anzac; plural noun: Anzacs
  1. a soldier in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (1914–18).
    • informal
      a person from Australia or New Zealand, especially a member of the armed services.
      This was the formation in which Australian and New Zealand soldiers in Egypt were grouped before the landing on Gallipoli in April 1915. The acronym was first written as “A & NZ Army Corps”.
      Anzac Day – 25th April – is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.