Monday, 3 November 2008

Remembrance Day coming up

We were in town today and the Poppy Appeal stall was there, so we spent a pleasant few minutes handing over a load of small change and putting it in the large poppy money-box and getting poppies and poppy bugs (that's progress for you!) in return. But then of course I have to discuss what Remembrance Day is all about and why we wear poppies. Now, I'm quite a big history buff and am definitely a believer in the tenet 'those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it', but sometimes the tone of Remembrance Day makes me a little uncomfortable. For example, on today's stall, they had a cardboard war memorial with 'Glorious Dead' on it. Now, I think that the word 'glorious' has no place in a discussion about war. War is not glorious and nor is dying - it's brutal, futile, squalid, a waste. I fully intend to impress this fact upon my children when the time is right, but I can't really think that at 3 and 5 years old that time is now. For now I have simply explained that sometimes people argue and when lots of people get together and argue it's called a war and people get hurt and killed, and it's better to talk about problems rather than fight. But how depressing it is that here in the 21st century I am still having to explain to my children what war is - not in a historical context, but in the here and now. Why do people go to war, Mummy? Buggered if I know.

by Siegfried Sassoon

He stood alone in some queer sunless place
Where Armageddon ends. Perhaps he longed
For days he might have lived; but his young face
Gazed forth untroubled: and suddenly there thronged
Round him the hulking Germans that I shot
When for his death my brooding rage was hot.

He stared at them, half-wondering; and then
They told him how I’d killed them for his sake—
Those patient, stupid, sullen ghosts of men;
And still there seemed no answer he could make.
At last he turned and smiled. One took his hand
Because his face could make them understand.


bethnoir said...

Ieuan wrote a poem about war and it made me really sad, there are no easy answers are there?

arwen_tiw said...

I'm with you there. What words are there to offer someone so small?

Carolyn said...

Very well put Liz(as always!!!)
I watched the Jo Brand programme about Vera Brittain yesterday and it really brought it home to me. War ruins the lives of so many people unneccesarily.