Wanted to write this earlier in the month, but I’ve become one of those annoying bastards who’s too busy with ‘life’ to blog as often as I used to.
Anyway. Poppy Day. The whole thing is really starting to get on my tits.
As a nation we, collectively, march people off to war to do atrocious things and have atrocious things done to them on our behalf. I’m not arguing against the obvious fact that it’s our moral duty to make sure they’re cared for appropriately when they come back in pieces, and that people who’ve put themselves in harm’s way under the genuine belief that they’re doing so to protect others deserve respect.
But the unquestioning lionisation of our military seems to get increasingly out of hand with every year that passes. Not every war we fight is just, and not everybody who puts on a uniform is a hero.
A lot of people who’ve never been hit in the face by anything harder than a dick often seem to be pretty gung-ho about glorifying the extreme violence done in our name. I’ve known a few men who’ve seen combat, and the one thing they all have in common is that they don’t seem overtly proud about the experience.
Remembrance Day seems less about sombre reflection on past horrors, and more about jingoism and flag-waving.
Where did it all start? The First World War – not a just war, not a desperate defence of freedom and human dignity, but a massive and disgusting betrayal of an entire generation of our young men. Millions sent to live in squalor and terror for months, years on end. 2.2% of the UK’s population slaughtered, many more physically and mentally damaged, lives destroyed, families irreparably scarred – all because of the imperialistic ambitions of the ruling elite.
Young men that didn’t fancy ending their lives in a freezing muddy ditch were ‘shamed’ and pressured into enlisting with accusations of cowardice. I wonder if any of the women who were enthusiastically handing out white feathers in 1918 recalled their earlier enthusiasm for bloodshed when the Luftwaffe brought war to their doorsteps in later life.
And, lest we forget, the 300+ men executed by our heroic armed forces for being unable to resist their overwhelming instinct for self-preservation and running the fuck away. (Some well-meaning people argue that many of these men must simply have cracked under extreme pressure – I think they were behaving in an exceptionally sane manner.)
All that stuff gets glossed over because it doesn’t really sound like anything we should be particularly proud of. Not even remotely on message.
Equally, the civilians who get killed and maimed in wars don’t get anything like the recognition that the troops get, and I think that’s a sickening imbalance.
A man goes to war on behalf of his country, armed and trained and backed up by the combined might of a well-funded modern military force. An eight year old girl who has no such protection yet, through no choice of her own, still has to face the same dangers and horrors as the professional soldier purely because she is unlucky enough to live in the warzone. The former is lauded as a hero, the latter is forgotten. That doesn’t seem right to me and that’s why I’ll still drop a few coins in the collecting tin if the mood takes me, but I won’t take a little red flower from the tray any more.