Remembering revisited

I think I was too hasty in the post on Remembrance Day.  I wrote that post before being aware of the anti-Afghan War protesters at Hyde Park and the reaction to them on Facebook in which lots of people invited them to take the next transport out of the country or wondered why they had not been arrested.  The restrained dignity of remembrance was disrupted.

Moreover, I read in the paper on Saturday that senior military personnel are becoming concerned at the reactions of the public to the military, one even describing some responses as ‘mawkish.’  The tributes at Wooton Basset, for example, may have transformed from a town expressing appropriate honour and mourning to a nation sentimentalising the ‘brave boys’ and wallowing in faux grief.   I guess the criticism is not of Wooton Basset, but of those who have found there a bandwagon on which to jump. 

My friend Gordon, in a comment on my previous post, also implicitly, and rightly, criticises me for lack of nuance and over-positiveness about the concept of remembrance:

reading your comment you could be forgiven for thinking that you thought fighting for your country was a good thing… I think that the Church has too often be saying “hurrah boys, off you go.” as they send our best young men into hellish situations, rather than questioning the whole reasoning behind it.

Hmmm.  Actually, W (my husband) and I had a long conversation on Monday about our somewhat conflicted feelings about Remembrance Day.  The notion of patriotism itself is a minefield for Christians:  not only are we called to obey governments, but most of us do identify strongly with our country, whatever that means.  I myself am proud to identify as British (and enjoy being an expat Scot in the foreign land of England) – while knowing that I disagree strongly with some actions of my government.  Christians do have a higher loyalty, but what does that mean in practice?

In the end, I still think that Remembrance has its place.  That is not the day for anti-war protests; it does not presuppose that everyone remembered was a hero or died in a just cause; at the very least it can be a day of national mourning for lives needlessly lost.

On the day when swords, spears and AK47s are ground into ploughshares we will have every tear dried from our eyes and understand perfectly the value of every life laid down.  Till then, we see imperfectly, think that there are some things worth fighting for but are unsure whether either the ends or the means in specific instances are justified.

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10 Responses to Remembering revisited

  1. Iain says:

    It seems to me that remembrance day is the obvious candidate for anti-war marches. I suppose I would not say that if I had lost a friend or a member of my family in battle. Burning poppies doesn’t seem good since the protest (against deaths caused by British military) implies that the protester wishes British soldiers to die as payment. However, carrying empty coffins through Wooten Basset – as some Muslim organisations were planning to do a few months ago – strikes me a subversive act that even (or especially) a church could do to show solidarity with those whom our own military sinfully persecute.

    • Alison says:

      There is a place for anti-war protests, of course, but that place is not the place of mourning (your second sentence betrays that you might appreciate that point). So I would avoid both Remembrace Day and Wooton Basset. Take the protests to Whitehall where the policy is made.

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