Wednesday, November 09, 2005

ARMISTICE

I am posting this well before November 11, Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, because I know I will be sickened by this government's display of patriotic jingoism. The PM will rattle on about our brave Anzacs on the Western Front, Beazley will follow as usual and all the members will wear the Flanders poppy. The RSL will lay wreaths and talk about how our men in Iraq are following the traditions formed on the beaches of Gallipoli.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I'll stop and remember the true heroes of the 1914-18 war. The war to end all wars. The men who survived, returned to Australia and lived with the nightmares for the rest of their lives. The women who came home as broken in body and mind as the men they had nursed in the sand of the Middle East and the mud of Flanders.

They stored their diaries, mementos and uniforms in old trunks, hidden away in attics, sheds, under their houses. They never looked at them again, they didn't have to. They buried their memories and tried to live normal lives as husbands and fathers. How normal was normal, when men would sit on the beaches with their backs to the sea because that's how they survived. They kept indoors when it rained because the smell of wet earth was the horror of waterlogged trenches.

As children, we were told of the sacrifices in our name and how we should honour the dead. I would have honoured them more had I known the truth. I am not a child anymore and the ones I honour are the ones who lived. Dying in war is easy, so many ways to die, but living with the dead walking beside is not. They did it year after year, the silent men with damaged minds.

We were never told the real beginnings of this war and I remember the shock when I found out the reason. A few shots in a little known country and young men died in their millions. For the Motherland, for King and country, for old men's incompetence and young men's inexperience.

We heard the romantic heroic poems that fed our patriotic pride in the nobility of the great struggle. What a shame I had to discover for myself the war poems of Dame Mary Gilmore. In a few words she sums up that so-called nobility and throws a harsh light on the truth of sacrifice.

WAR
Out in the dust he lies;
Flies in his mouth,
Ants in his eyes...
I stood at the door
Where he went out
Full grown man,
Ruddy and stout;
I heard the march
Of the trampling feet,
Slow and steady
Come down the street;
The beat of the drum
Was clods on the heart,
For all that the Regiment
Looked so smart!
I heard the crackle
Of hasty cheers
Run like the breaking
Of unshed tears,
And just for a moment,
As he went by,
I had sight of his face,
And the flash of his eye.
He died a hero's death
They said,
When they came to tell me
My boy was dead;
But out in the street
A dead dog lies;
Flies in his mouth
Ants in his eyes.

4 comments:

Gerry said...

Bravo! I doffs me lid, CW.

JahTeh said...

Right back at you because you went.

Gerry said...

I got sucked in. And I don't think I'll ever get over the rage that the recognition of this fact has triggered.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...

JahTeh said...

If the Labor never does another thing for this country, it did at least give 18's the vote so no more conscription ever. I wonder if the pious Chipp sleeps at night or dreams of marbles.