Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Days late, I know, and without the library of images that I hoped to publish to illustrate my thoughts because it would appear that I have accidentally deleted the entire folder at some point.

Anyway, as ever, read on at your peril.

Would you like to know more?

I'm not very good at expressing the full emotional impact of Remembrance on me, nor the way it can be hijacked for other ends. I am not usually able to articulate the feelings I have when people argue that Remembrance Day (Sunday closest to Armistice Day, 11 November) should be a celebration of freedom and a reminder that freedom isn't free. Especially when the freedoms supposedly fought for by all those men and women dying in wars under their different flags are rarely, if ever, actually granted to those who fought for them nor their families nor their children and when, in our time, wars are actively fought elsewhere, in our names, to remove our freedoms as well as those of the people who are unfortunate enough to live in the areas we decide are valuable. For it is we. We cannot escape the fact that the government that purports to represent us, actually does represent us. And therefore, when they claim to be doing things in our name we must take responsibility for that. We cannot blithely blame others for what we stand by and let happen.

And that, that, is why I believe we should respect veterans. We should respect those who say nothing and carry out what they were ordered to do. But we should be wary.

I cannot articulate any of that effectively. So I'm going to let Sassoon do it for me:

You told me, in your drunken-boasting mood,
How once you butchered prisoners. That was good!
I'm sure you felt no pity while they stood
Patient and cowed and scared, as prisoners should.

How did you do them in? Come, don't be shy:

You know I love to hear how Germans die,
Downstairs in dug-outs. 'Camerad!' they cry;
Then squeal like stoats when bombs begin to fly.

And you? I know your record. You went sick

When orders looked unwholesome: then, with trick
And lie, you wangled home. And here you are,
Still talking big and boozing in a bar.

And, again, thinking about some of those that travelled to Wooton Bassett, or those that publish pictures festooned with their flag asking us to 'support our boys' by not opposing wars or claim that war is necessary to defend freedoms against the terrorists / muslims / communists / totalitarians or whosoever we've decided to demonise lately, Sassoon encapsulates my feelings and says them all the better because he knows and I do not:

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

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