Today is Remembrance Sunday, the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day, which was yesterday.
Up and down the country, and indeed all over the world, there will be services to remember those who died in military service during the First World War, as well as those who fell in subsequent wars.
It’s a sombre occasion, and if I usually have a cynical predisposition towards many aspects of the world we live in, I’m inclined to put that cynicism aside today. Remembrance Sunday means different things to different people, and I have my own reasons for observing it. I don’t particularly need to share those reasons here.
That said, I’m often concerned by the attitudes of certain sectors of society towards the day. There are too many people who take the view that remembering people who died in conflict is somehow linked to patriotism. It isn’t and shouldn’t be.
People die on all sides during wars.
There’s a memorial in the chapel in one of the colleges at Oxford*, which honours the students who fell in World War 1. I imagine such memorials exist across the many universities that lost a generation of students to that global conflict. What I find poignant about this particular memorial though, is the fact that not only are the British soldiers listed, (in horrifyingly vast numbers) but so too are a small number of German soldiers who had been studying at Oxford prior to the outbreak of war. I don’t know if there are other examples of that kind of thing, but I found myself genuinely moved when I saw it.
There’s nothing wrong with being proud of where you come from, and I’m sure I’m as partisan as anyone in my own way.
But when it comes to war, nationality is no barometer of tragedy.
*For the sake of clarity, I did not study at Oxford – I just live near the place and have, for various reasons, had occasion to visit some of the colleges over the last few years. I mention this so as not to be mistaken for one of the ‘out-of-touch’ liberal elite. You know, the kind of bleeding-heart liberal that would probably have written the thing I just wrote...