I think the poem “In Flanders Fields” sums up my feelings about today. Here’s an excerpt for you:
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.
Followers of my Facebook or Twitter feeds will know that I observe the, customary, two minutes of silence on this day, every year. And, in my opinion, we all should. Regardless of your political views, or views on war or conflict.
It doesn’t matter if you are for or against the invasion of Iraq, the present armed force in Afghanistan, Desert Storm, the Cold War, Vietnam, Korea, the World Wars, or even Hastings. The fact of the matter is: people gave their lives for the freedom of “those, yet unborn.” What’s the best thing you’ve done today? This week? This month? This year? Is it comparable?
I’m not a patriot. I’d find myself in with the conscientious objectors if conscription were to be declared today. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t recognise the sacrifices others have given for us all to be able to enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted each day.
This is why I become incensed when, at the time of remembrance, I seem to be one of the only people of my generation taking part. I feel like I’m old enough to describe my generation like that. Aside from those who are in or connected to the military (or naval, for that matter) institutions no one seems to care any more.
Knowing, as I do, that I’m starting to sound like a Fox News reporter, I need to say: Of course it matters! It’s always mattered. Just because there’s no intrinsic link to the conflict that started is all – The Great War – does not mean that it isn’t valid any more. In America, for instance, Independence day is still celebrated; here in the UK, we still celebrate the Spring Equinox; in Spain they still celebrate the Running of the Bulls; and globally we still celebrate myths and legends that have less of a grip on our caffeine addicted society of instant entertainment.
I found it particularly upsetting to find myself standing in silence at 11 am in the middle of a bustling street. Cars were still being driven, people still talking, still walking. No one stopped to honour those who have fallen or those who may fall.
I was talking with my brother about the Great War last night. We ended up sharing all kinds of stories about the things that those soldiers went through. I will always have a strong connection with the Great War. I think it’s based on my studies of it. In a time when we were a (mostly) industrialised world economy, I find it staggering that millions of men marched to their deaths at Ypres, in order to gain a few feet of land. Seriously, go and read about the battle of Ypres or the battle of the Somme.
It’s depressing stuff. It puts all of your problems in perspective, too. I mean, what can you have in your life that compares to what those brave men and women went through? You ‘need’ a new mobile phone? You want a holiday?
I know that I’m starting to prattle on a bit, now. But I seriously mean everything that I say. I can’t believe that people will not take the time to show respect for those who’ve fallen.
Anyway, I’m beginning to sound like a parrot. Not something I would wish to do. I shall leave you with this, it is the final scene from Blackadder Goes Forth, a BBC Sit-Com about the Great War. The final scene was made as an homage to all of those who lost their lives in that bloody war. Enjoy.