A Short, Inadequate Post About Remembrance

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...

Artificial Armistice Anger

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Today is the 11th November or Armistice day. It’s 99 years since the end of the First World War –  at the time regarded as “the war to end all wars”.

There have, of course, been many other significant wars since, so the intense devastation and huge loss of life did not, alas, lead to the cessation of global hostilities.

I am not especially qualified to discuss the various issues surrounding military conflict – it’s a complex issue. I think most people would agree that war is a bad thing, some people may believe there are times when war is unavoidable, others make take the view that war is never justifiable.

It isn’t for me to comment on really – I have my views, but I don’t believe that my views are sufficiently well-informed to air them on a blog that is, for the most part, meant to be light-hearted and fun.

An in-depth discussion on the morality of war would seem out of place on these pages.

But there is one issue surrounding the Remembrance Day commemorations that often leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable.

It’s the issue of whether to wear or not to wear a poppy.

I have no objections to wearing a poppy myself – it’s a fitting symbol for remembering the fallen from the First World War and it seems a reasonable extension that it should be used to remember the fallen in all world wars.

It’s also reasonable that proceeds from the poppy appeal go towards supporting veterans of more recent conflicts.

I have no intrinsic problem with The Poppy Appeal – indeed I am actively in favour of it in most respects.

However, these days there does seems to be a bizarre notion that anyone who chooses not to wear a poppy is somehow unpatriotic or disrespectful.

Surely, if there is a point to any conflict it is supposedly to maintain our freedom.

And freedom surely means having the choice not to wear a poppy.

It’s a freedom that certain sections of the mainstream media seem to conveniently forget about when constructing artificial outrage.

And such artificial outrage surely flies in the face of what the poppy is supposed to represent.

We should feel free to wear a poppy today, be it as an act of remembrance or to show solidarity with veterans of conflict.

But we should also feel free not to wear a poppy if that is our preference.

To be fair the artificial outrage does not limit itself to non-poppy wearers. Princes William and Harry are on the receiving end of the wrath of one particularly hateful publication today for choosing to go to a rugby game over attending this evening’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Now I’m certainly no royalist, indeed my feeling about the British Royal Family are firmly indifferent. I mean I’d imagine we’d be more than OK without a Royal Family, but William and Harry are generally inoffensive as it goes.

And to be fair, it seems a particularly odd criticism of military veteran Prince Harry, who is famously quite active in his charity work for veterans of conflict, to suggest he is somehow being disrespectful by not attending an event, which the writer of the article even admits that ‘he may still end up attending after the rugby’.

But what do I know about such things?