Monday, February 24, 2014

PICK OF THE WEEK: Remembering

(Armadale Western Australia February 2014

I'm always drawn to war memorials. I guess it has to do with my father being a career soldier in the Australian army. Among other things, he did two tours in that horrific war on Vietnam as part of the Australian commitment to its "friend" the United States. That service led eventually to his death and to the destruction of our family. That is not a story for this blog, I know. What I want to reflect on here is why I'm drawn to the places and sites that memorialize war.

I was involved for a few years in an organisation with other sons and daughters of Vietnam veterans. But, in the end, I didn't like it at all. What bothered me most was that there was too much focus on and too much glorification of military exploits, of battles fought and won. And there was too little emphasis placed on the concept that war itself is the problem. War is the evil that caused so much of our pain.

And, of course, memorials like this one in my photograph, are venues for gatherings such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services, battle commemorations and the like. So, what is it that pulls me in every time I encounter such a place in my travels? As I said, it's personal.

I think at some point I made a decision as to what these "war memorials" represent to me. I have come to believe they are places which honour the memory of the victims of war. I ignore the battle names carved on them, and choose instead to think upon the names of the dead and their lives, as well as the families they have left behind. For me they have become anti-war memorials.

There is nothing naive about me. No,not at all. I do not for a second think that war is going to ever be "a thing of the past". Sadly it does not seem to be in the nature of the human animal to find other solutions, to not covet the land or resources of others. No, war is a permanent fixture. But I don't have to like it. I do not have to support it. I do not have to celebrate victories or (and this is even more perverse) defeats in which some seem to find so much to glorify.

So, what of this photograph? I had thought to call it "Some Remember while Some Forget", based on the man who looks like he is remembering or trying to remember something, and the person walking away as if not even noticing the memorial. However, I decided that the simple title would be better: Remembering.

And we should always remember. Not, as I say because that's the way to put an end to war. It isn't quite that simple. But remembering, not forgetting, is important because it can help us realize that in the end it is all of us who are responsible for war. Yes, I know, I said that war seems to be in our nature. So, you might ask, how can any of us as individuals be responsible? Perhaps it's a good question. All I can say in response (and in a rare display of naivety) is that maybe the question posed by the title of a movie from 1970 might be an even better one to ponder:

Suppose they threw a war and nobody came

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