As I write this blog today, all over the world armies are fighting, for freedom, for power, for money or for greed. In the name of religion or faith people are dying, every day. As a confirmed pacifist I have always loathed fighting, and have often argued that violent combat is never the answer.
I watch the news on the internet and see over and over again communities torn apart and families grieving and I wonder how much is a ‘necessary combat’ and what would happen if we all, tomorrow, just chose to live in peace. I guess it is a question, as most things are, about who wants to be in charge. For whatever reason, power is the key to both war and peace. We can step away, we can chose to love not fight, but, sadly, we don’t.
When I see the headlines, pitching one group of humans against another, when I hear of a freedom fighter/terrorist blowing themselves and others to pieces, it is fair to say that I can despair of humankind. When I see a Help for Heroes collector in the shops I want to say, no, this is not heroic, it is choosing to make war a career. Donovan, when he sang about the Universal Soldier way back when, had it just about right. Without the army a leader cannot fight. Without the ordinary soldier, war cannot happen. Maybe, on a good day, I think maybe, that is the answer. However I am a realist and I do understand that there are some things so wicked, we have to take a stand, and there is the problem. For me is there ever a just war?
Up until this past week I have always refused to get involved in this issue. I have huge respect for those men and women who were conscripted and fought in the Great War, the war that was supposed to end all wars, and then the Second World War that followed. Huge bravery and human stories, none more so than the mothers left behind to hope and pray their children and their husbands would return safely. I simply cannot imagine how it must have been. In those wars, people had no choice, they didn’t want to be soldiers they were told this was the way it was. Some stood by their belief and refused to fight, they were deemed cowards. I have always thought it took huge bravery to stand by your principles at such a time. Some worked in non combat, supporting medics and carrying those injured to safety. They were not cowards. They were not heroes either.
With all this in mind, it was a challenge and a shock when this week I was asked by an old friend to support her in her attempt to have a family member honoured for bravery due to his actions in the Falklands War. The Falklands War was the first war I was aware of living through as an adult. It began two weeks before I was due to get married and I was filled with horror at the idea that if it escalated my lovely new husband might be asked to fight. I clearly remember watching the TV news as huge ships full of young men began the journey to the other end of the world to defend a territory I had never heard of. I saw newspaper headlines full of jingoism and patriotism, for the first time I saw what it was like to have an enemy that had a name. I remember the horror of Bluff Cove and the news reel from the aircraft carrier, the reporter, each evening, counting them all out and counting them all back. I have no idea if this was a just war, I don’t even know what was achieved, apart from glorifying the most evil Prime Minister ever and guaranteeing her a second term in office. Every step of the way I kept thinking of the mothers, British and Argentinian who were left at home worrying about their children.
So I considered my friends request. From all accounts her relative did a brave act, which cost him his life, and there is good evidence that his actions saved others from the same fate. I guess that is worth honouring. Whether I believe he should be there at all doesn’t matter. He was, and he is dead. Others are alive because of this, they came home. In the 30 years since many will have had a life. Maybe they have married, had children, grandchildren even. They will be doing jobs and making friends, getting drunk and dancing. On cold April mornings they will pause and think of the days, as young men, when they were sent to defend their countrymen and how some of their friends didn’t come home.
I am thinking of the words from the poem For the Fallen, by Robert Laurence Binyon, it always sends a shiver down my spine
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
So, I guess, dear reader, it matters little what my personal view of war, soldiers, fighting and terror is. What matters is the personal. The sons and daughters who didn’t come home. Together with those who did, and who have been forever changed, in body, mind and spirit. If publicly honouring such a soldier brings peace to those left behind, who am I to disagree?
In my ideal world, we would share resources, work together, help each other and remember that we are all human. We would learn to love each other and our wonderful earth. Part of that belief includes supporting friends, and I am including a link to my friends e petition on this matter. If you feel you want to support her and her family please do so.
I will carry on being a pacifist and will stick to my belief that war is never the answer. I hope that all our young people choosing the Army as a career, through lack of hope for any other job, are kept as safe as they can be in a world where they are trained to fight and kill. I will never feel comfortable with the headlines of heroes, fallen and otherwise. I just hope that one day we will see through the smoke and mirrors of political games playing and religion, recognise our strength and find a way to live in peace.
Take it away Donovan.