Last night I watched the annual Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall. And this morning, as the UK’s wartime fallen were remembered at the Cenotaph (see here), the usual two-minute silence evoked mixed emotions in me.
The air was cold and clear, the sky a cobalt blue and Whitehall with the Cenotaph at its heart was lined with the ranks of those who serve and those who once served…(Angus Crawford – BBC News)
At the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month each year, we remember our servicemen and women who have died during conflicts past and present. British forces across the world – including 9,500 soldiers in Afghanistan – also stood silent to remember this morning. But what are we actually remembering?
Rememberance Today: Poppies, Grief and Heroism is a book by Dr Ted Harrison, a former BBC religious affairs correspondent. In it the author asks a similar question. Harrison also went further by saying that “celebrity endorsement of the Poppy Appeal risks dumbing down the reality of war.” Is he right?
I think the greatest honour one can actually pay those who have died in the past, and the greatest comfort to those who are living in grief, is to ensure that future generations themselves are not called upon to die heroically or otherwise in battle…(Dr. Ted Harrison)
In his book Harrison poses several questions which actually need to be answered, if we really want to fully understand the true meanings of remembrance. What does it really mean to be heroic? What, in the context of military service, does glory mean? But most fundamental of all – what is the purpose of Remembrance?
If Remembrance does not serve as a warning against conflict, and if it is not a reminder to Peoples to rededicate themselves to peace, then Remembrance is futile…(huffingtonpost.co.uk)
Harrison suggests that; “the stark reality of war could be made much more real if every poppy was given a corresponding number from 1 to 1000. These numbers could then be matched up with the life story of real soldier. The poppy wearer could then go to a website or booklet and find the story behind that poppy.”
In a way he is right and in my opinion it’s not such a bad idea. Many people today, irrespective of their thoughts and actions on this day, have very little cognisance of what it’s all about. Those amongst us who are old enough to remember the impacts of either of the two world wars (or subsequent conflict), have differing views to younger members of our society. Many of them base their perception of war, death and destruction upon film and/or video game portrayal. A virtual reality where nobody actually gets hurt, physically or emotionally, at least not in the short-term.
Those who have served since then, or are connected to someone who has (in some way) will by experience, hold widely differing views. Then there are those who have absolutely no first hand knowledge of the impacts of armed conflict, let alone any experience of personal injury death and/or personal loss.
But like Harrison, I have no desire to detract from any of the real and genuine feelings or emotions displayed by different individuals on this day. I am simply examining and commenting upon the issues that are presented as a result of such an event.
That said, far too many people fail to recognise a simple fact; if it wasn’t for the sacrifices made by others in the past, it’s highly unlikely that any of us would actually be enjoying the freedoms that we do today! In addition to this, and as Harrison points out; politicians also have a tendency to glorify war and we the public, our tendency is to over create heroes.
The government or politicians don’t by and large want people to know too much about the horrors of war. It’s not for recruitment. If politicians want to flex their muscles and go to war at some stage, then to have a whole nation that knows too much about what war’s like is not favourable…(Dr Ted Harrison)
This poignant day means different things to different people. Each person will have varying levels of emotions and thoughts, each of which are based upon their own individual life experiences. The thing that always has a tendency to raise my blood pressure is; those people who have little or no respect for the emotions and feelings of others, let alone any genuine interest in or empathy for, the personal sacrifice that others have made in the past.
To all those who think it is their God given right to do and say as they please, irrespective of the impacts of their actions and words upon others, remember those who earned you that freedom!
Lest we forget…
- Queen leads Remembrance Day tributes (telegraph.co.uk)
- Remembrance Day: Queen leads Britain’s mourning of its war dead (guardian.co.uk)
- The Queen leads Remembrance services (thetimes.co.uk)