They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!
I am still an Anzac Day Atheist. I do not want to participate in organised religion of any kind, at all.
I think that what disturbs me most about Anzac Day is that these days, our politicians are expected to attend. We mock political processes in the United States, for the way in which their pollies must profess some religion, even if they lead repugnant personal lives, yet we would cluck and tut-tut and notice if one of our pollies did not turn out for the Dawn Parade on Anzac Day. It has become a religious festival. It even has elements of sacrifice: people must drag themselves out of bed early in the morning in order to be at the church local cenotaph when dawn breaks.
Yet I think that we must remember the men and women who died, and who were wounded, in body or spirit or both, by wars. And I do think of them, in grief for the lives lost, and in gratitude for what they did for us.
What I do not care for is the pretensions of people who have never had to go to war, have never had to try to cope at home, have never grieved for the lost fiancés and lost dreams, have never waited in fear and hope for the awful news. Anzac Day ought to be a day for grieving, and for vowing that we will never let such a horrible thing happen again.
I think we must put an end to relatives marching in Anzac Day parades. If a regiment or a squadron or a platoon marches, and all that is to be seen is their name, then that is the right memorial. That is when we experience the horror of war, and that is when we imagine the women and men who have died. That is when we truly try to remember those who have served, and those who have died.
There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second in when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, some time in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.
Each Anzac Day, people gather around the cenotaphs in our towns, and read the names of those who died. We read their names, aloud, and remember them. This is what we must honour on Anzac Day.
Some other Anzac Day posts:
My own post on what we did today: Anzac Day 2012
Annanonymous on Wars are dumb. Let’s stop having them.
Imperator Fish on This Day: Would the people who died recognise New Zealand?
Joshua Hitchcock on A Tale of Two National Holidays