Thursday, 11 November 2010

Armistice Day

So, I actually want to be serious.

I've written a lot about, well, bucket wizards and talking pigs, and millipede fights and... all sorts here, but it's November the eleventh, and that's remembrance day.

It's not something I usually take much notice of, to be honest. Of course, I buy a poppy, and I keep the silences, and have a moment's thoughtful contemplation... but I don't really dwell on it. It's nothing more than a slight addition to an otherwise normal day.

But something this year prompted me to do my first serious blog post in, well, ever. I overheard someone say, and I can't remember who on earth it was, sadly, that they didn't see the point of a holiday that glorified murderers. And, as someone who doesn't believe anyone owes allegiance to a particular chunk of rock they happen to call a country and who, depending on their mood, verges on pacifism, you might think I agree. And I absolutely don't.

It's an interesting point. After all, we're mainly remembering World War One and World War Two. World War One was a war where, in all honesty, we weren't particularly on the side of all that was right and good. Neither side was particularly good or particularly evil, and both committed their share of atrocities. World War Two was, granted, a slightly more clear cut conflict, but we have to remember that the 'morally right' side committed, among other things, the Dresden Bombings - not to mention detonating the only nuclear weapons so far fired in anger.

But, well, remembrance day isn't about that anyway. The poppy isn't about sides, or the moral rights of a conflict. A poppy honours the fallen dead, on both sides, whoever they were. We have a minute's silence for the casualties of war, because war is ugly and war is cruel and war, at it's core, lies to a bunch of poor sods and sends them to fight another bunch of poor sods.

There isn't glory, and there are precious few heroes. There's just a bunch of broken families where Daddy or Uncle Jack or the youngest son, or whoever it is, never came home. There's just the senseless loss of whole generations because people cannot and will not treat other humans like they are the same species.

So you're silent, and remember the people who were led to their deaths by lies, false ideals, and stubbornness. You remember the genuine friendship and the moments of beauty among the mud, the blood and the screaming and dying. And you remember the soldiers out there now, whatever war they're in, whatever you feel about that conflict, and you hope your hardest they come home safe.

It's not about sides, and it's not about victory.

It's about sacrifice, whether it was for anything worthwhile or not, and loss.


So I wrote this yesterday before posting it.

Since I wrote it, apparently there's been a very, very small protest in London, with some Islamic Extremists protesting about British Army presence in Muslim countries, and it involved the burning of poppies.

Obviously, it's entirely missing the point of the day. That's what the rest of the post was about, and it's a terrible and monumentally stupid action.

But the amount of 'us and them' it's immediately caused, and the amount of attention that's been brought to a very, very small protest, is equally worrying. Yes, these actions are sickening, and deserve to be condemned. But what worries me is that here, the first thing described about the protesters was that they were Muslims. Back on September 11th, with the Koran burnings and all, the people involved were usually referred to as 'extremists' first, and Christians second. It's important to grant others the same distinction, and to stop what was, after all, a protest attended by about 35 people being blown out of proportion.

But avoiding being distracted by the ugly side of it all, here's a similarly out of character tribute: Dropkick Murphies, normally rather a loud and noisy punk band, lay down the guitars to perform a beautiful rendition of Eric Bogle's Green Fields of France.

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