“Lest we forget.” It is the phrase of remembrance as we honour the memories of those who have lost their lives fight for the freedom of our country and many others. I think most people – we can only hope – have at least some understanding of this. I cannot speak for any other country, but I know that in the UK there is simply no excuse for anyone educated in a state school not to know about Remembrance Day and remembrance Sunday.
Unless there are specific needs reasons why someone has been unable to learn about these dates, to not know about these dates is a true example of ignorance.
A Moment of Silence
In the minutes of silence shared on the 11th November and the Sunday (if they are not the same day) people must think of many different things. From all different backgrounds, political viewpoints and opinions, some even show their respects for those who died whilst remaining staunch pacifists or anti-war in their personal opinion. It is possible to compartmentalise in that way.
Something that always stands out strong in my mind is how much society has changed, grown, been challenged and been tested since the Great War. Many other wars have broken out, and it is often true that some conflict is occurring somewhere in the world – often with UK involvement.
However, wars don’t just happen between soldiers. They leave in their wake those innocent victims who have no part to play in the war but to suffer. World War 2 was a particularly brutal war when it came to the attack of innocent people: not the first time, but significant in the use of attacks on solely domestic locations on a large scale. The UK and Allies are as responsible for that as the Nazis were, and of course the USA dropped the first (and only) civilian targeted nuclear warheads in history.
Victims of War
Wars have other victims, and those victims often become refugees fleeing for their safety. In the UK we sent children to live as evacuees out in the countryside, away from many city attacks. Even prior to the war beginning, refugees came to the UK from many countries, including some in Eastern Europe. Half a million Prisoners of War were in the UK by 1945. World War 2 was the single most significant change in diversity of the UK. Add to that the many civilian refugees, including the then thousand Kindertransport, the influx into the UK was signicant. The proportional change to the population – given two wars worth of dead mean – was to leave a long-standing and permanent mark on the UK.
As wars continue, more and more refugees are created. At the moment there are nearly 5 million refugees from Syria alone and they tragically got caught up in issues to do with immigration. Refugees have no automatic right to settle permanently in the country they reach. But the problem is often in how they are represented by the media. During the EU Referendum debates the lines between economic migrants, refugees and asylum seekers was once again blurred, mainly for the purposes of political rhetoric and media hyperbole. Big headlines sell papers – it is as simple as that.
Lest We Have…Forgotten…
Perhaps this is why some find it hard to swallow the “lest we forget” message of remembrance. We could be forgiven for feeling as though the way some refugees have been treated is a sign that maybe we have forgotten. We could also do the same when thinking about the modern wars themselves, regardless of refugee numbers. Even more so when we consider the amount of weapons and equipment that is sold by western countries – including the UK – to these countries perhaps more sense of responsibility should be felt by those who are offering such sparing help and support for refugees.
In this time of remembrance perhaps we should all reflect on what it is we should have learnt from history. No-one with any true sense believes that oppressors should be allowed to continue unchallenged, but perhaps at some point we need to start asking some big questions about just how effective all our armed forces work really is.
If you wounded your arm and it began to bleed you would dress it. If you kept having to re-dress it over, and over, and over, at some point you would begin to think that maybe some other kind of treatment is needed.
So as we all say “lest we forget”, perhaps we should take a moment to ask what exactly it is we are truly supposed to be remembering.