Thursday, 11 November 2010
In memoriam 2010
If you were born in Britain at the end of World War 2, you'll have reached retirement age this year. Sixty-five years, through infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Hopefully it's been a productive, enjoyable life. And you might think to yourself that you had been immensely lucky. Because if you study human history, such a long period of time with no war is almost unprecedented.
But of course, you'd be wrong. Since you were born, soldiers, sailors and airmen have been on active duty. Time and time again, they've been called upon to put into practice the training they probably hoped they'd never have to use. Some of them have paid an awful price. Many of them are still in the line of fire as you read this.
You might not agree with this situation. You might say that it is wrong for military personnel to be posted to certain places. It's not done in your name. And that's fine. A lot of people might say you had a point.
You might also say that Remembrance Day is not for you. In recent years, there seems to have been a lot more focus on the wearing of the poppy and you're not comfortable with the compulsion. No-one should force you into feeling a particular way, you say. And that's fine, too.
But if you can spend a couple of minutes just thinking about the people, that might make a difference. Not the brass, the generals and admirals. Think about the ordinary men and women who joined up but came back changed for life - or didn't come back at all. From the decreasing cohorts of old men with their smart medal ribbons, to the teenage amputees. And not forgetting the rows of crisp, white headstones with their inscriptions.
I'm not going to force you though. It's largely a free world. And that's really the point, isn't it?