Something about forgetting
Anzac Day, 2017. Lest we forget.
On this day in 1914, troops from the newly federated nation of Australia answered the call to fight alongside Mother England and landed at Gallipoli to attack the sovereign nation of Turkey. The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, and by the time the survivors left, over 8000 Australian soldiers had died.
On this day.
Lest we forget.
Lest we forget soldiers, shivering in trenches, waiting for the command to run against machine guns, waiting for an order to die for a greater good. They followed the order; they ran and died.
Was that good?
On this day somewhere a boy puts down his pen from a maths exam, looks out of the window and dreams of how he will make his mark in the world when he grows up. Little does he know he won’t grow past 18, on this day.
And somewhere on this day, a mother feeds her baby at a breast full of hopes and dreams for the future; for school, a career. Perhaps he is a musician because he already loves listening to music, and she thinks he may be left-handed because he always seems to move his left hand first when he plays with toys.
Lest we forget left-handed young men running from the trenches to the rhythm of gunfire, holding their rifles in their left hands before bullets rip through their chests.
On this day. Lest we forget those in another war, or other wars, fought by the sons and daughters of people like us, ordered to die for another cause, for another greater good.
Look up “April 25th” on Wikipedia, and you’ll find a litany of memorial days, of wars, lost and won, or won and lost, depending on which side you are on. Or perhaps just lost, if you are on the side of humanity. Look up any other date, and you’ll find the same. Lest we forget.
And lest we forget those dates you won’t find on Wikipedia; children dying now in third world countries in local conflicts sponsored by non-local corporate interests, dying so that we can have smart phones and chocolate. Children are dying right now fighting for Isis, fighting for their belief in liberating lands. Children are dying right now through bombing raids conducted by Western world powers on Isis, fighting for their belief in liberating lands.
Lest we forget.
Lest we forget that somewhere on this day a general in a boardroom sat at a leather desk moving figurines around the simulated battlefield deciding who should live and who should die. And somewhere on this day, a senior banker decided that he wanted to acquire more money. And somewhere on this day government officials decided that they needed more oil. And somewhere on this day, Australian Aboriginal people were gunned down in the outback because we needed more space. And somewhere on this day artillery shells were fired and accidentally hit a hospital and people struggling for life already didn’t have to struggle anymore. And somewhere on this day the world kept turning and kept thinking that the way we live is good and right and that this sacrifice is necessary for the greater good. And somewhere on this day, the world became less great and less right and less good, but it was more water on the wheel. Nobody noticed because it was more water on the wheel, somewhere.
Years of Anzac stories told to children growing up in privilege and safety have numbed our thoughts about war; about the experience of pain.
It could seem that as a race, human beings are inherently violent.
When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, the story goes that they had two children. There were four people on the whole earth, and in a jealous rage, one of the children killed the other.
“Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground”, said the Lord, when the first man died.
How many times has Abel’s blood cried out since?
And we, who profess to follow this God, do we hear it, as God did that first death, that first day?
Before that death, before the betrayal, we were created good. We were created to dwell with God in paradise. Do we remember, can we remember who we are?
Do we hear our brothers’ blood cry out from the ground?
Lest we forget.
Lest we forget indeed.
(Thanks to Jonathan Brain for inspiring this post)
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