Wednesday, May 02, 2012

ANZAC Day - J'accuse

I will admit it. I am the kind of person who likes to commemorate ANZAC Day by listening to Eric Bogle's song "And the band played Walzing Matilda" or Redgum's "I was only 19". These songs speak of the horror, the lies, the blood and the trauma of battles fought by Australians in far off lands. And they remind us that soldiers, whether they live or die, are casualties of war.

In Europe they seem to do a better job of teaching children about the futility and reality of violent conflict. I was reading that in France the message is "J'accuse" meaning I accuse the men, the decision makers, the war, the whole thing of being so incredibly stupid. In German schools, they teach children the full story of the war, and don't hide from the evil decisions of a past regime.

Yet, in Australia ANZAC Day seems to have turned into a glorification of war. When I attended the Dawn Service one year, I was horrified to see private school boys parading around Martin Place in their cadet uniforms while middle aged men talked in fake somber tones about the justification of war. Clearly none of them had actually been in the trenches, and yet it seemed that they were using the old men who had been through so much as justification for current deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. They spoke of the courage and the sacrifice of the young war heroes of almost a century ago, and suggested to us that they had been fighting for God, and for our Country.

But in those tales of heroic deaths, and sacrifice and supposedly having God on our side, where is the space for the soldiers who were really, really scared? Or those courageous enough to refuse to take part? Or those who began to doubt the existence of God because of what they'd seen humanity do to one another? Or those who returned home legless, armless, blind or insane, and were expected to just get on with life?

So, when we say "lest we forget", I hope we mean that we will listen to the digger's stories, and always remember and acknowledge the experience of every soldier in every war, whether heroic, tragic or just plain miserable. I also hope we mean that we promise to work towards a world where these experiences really are part of our history and not our future.


Janette Baker said...

That's really true Aletia. Thank you for making me think about Anzac day in more than just the medals and pride and two up. War is horrendous.

Aletia said...

Thanks Janette - really lovely to get that feedback.