I’m on record as having a great disquiet with the whole concept of war. What I want to convey though is that although I abhor warmongering, I do retain a deep respect for soldiering.
I’ve been thinking about last year’s Remembrance Day post, which tells the story of our having taken our kids to visit a veteran, “uncle Bill,” on Remembrance day the year before (2004). I recommend returning to that post for reflection… I am doing so this year, as we can’t take our kids to see Bill again. Of course we didn’t know, couldn’t know at the time that we were spending his last Remembrance Day with him, but Bill passed away before November 2005 came around.
How do we remember now? This morning I sat in on the chapel service at my kids’ school… Remembrance Day theme. The hallways had crafts that the kids had done around the theme, and many of the kids participated in the chapel service. I’m glad to see them learning about war. It’s a necessary part of what we all must learn… and unfortunately it’s something that we must learn when we’re too young. It’s an obscene interruption of childhood, but it’s avoided only at our peril… intergenerational memory is profoundly important.
In considering what war is like, I think about movie portrayals, like Saving Private Ryan, where although Spielberg sought (and achieved) a remarkable degree of realism in the battle scenes, something about the movie premise remains too “Hollywood” to convey the true nature of war. In that area, I think Spielberg accomplished much more with Schindler’s List.
Gallipoli is likewise a better option for conveying what war is like than watching Matt Damon getting plucked from harm’s way by a squad of American soldiers. It’s a difficult challenge today to capture and retain the memory of world war, now that those who truly remember are seeing their voices silenced through attrition or through the stubborn refusal of any generation to fully appreciate the lessons learned by just the one or two which precede it. There’s a song about Gallipoli which I would recommend as a reflection this week. Its exceptional lyrics tell the story of a Gallipoli survivor, and include the disturbing, haunting line, “Never knew there was worse things than dying.” Now this, I suggest, is a picture of war.