Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Soldiers are not the only victims of war

Today I've attended two ANZAC ceremonies in my local area - the first a civic ceremony at the local war memorial cairn, the second at a veterans' home.  There was recognition offered for those who did not come back, and respect shown for those present who had made it home, but I couldn't help thinking of all those not mentioned. 

In the first ceremony the Turks, who after all actually live in Gallipoli and have done so, by one name or another, for centuries, were totally absent.  There seemed to me to be a confusion of the reason for fighting against the Axis forces in WWII with the catalysts of the Great War.  "Freedom", "liberty", "our way of life" were peppered throughout some speeches.  It's a very long bow to say that those who went to Gallipoli were going for that, truly.  The ANZAC forces, the communal "we" invoked on April 25th, were the invaders; a fact which didn't really sink in for me until I went to Gallipoli myself and saw the Turkish memorial.  I was also aware that while there were Indian forces at Gallipoli, and there are many many Indians living in Mt Roskill, no acknowledgement was made.

Some glorify that disastrous campaign, with pictures in their heads of willing sacrifice, as if dying was the point of it all, and not something each strove actively to avoid. The horror of it is forefront in my mind as I stand, or sit, or sing, along with the thought "never again."

The victims of war are not all members of the armed forces, be they conscripted or volunteers.  Civilians, who just happen to be living in the way, are frequent casualties, be they killed, injured, traumatised, raped, or impoverished.  Yet again, these people, undeniably scarred by war, are absent from most commemorations. 

Recognising those currently invisible at many ANZAC ceremonies does not need to happen in a way that overwhelms the contribution of those who have served in the Australian and New Zealand armed forces.  Maybe next year.


captiver said...

It seems a bit like having any questions, doubts, concerns about war commemoration ceremonies is pretty taboo, so thanks for mentioning the invisible victims of war. I sometimes wonder if we imported this increasing reverence for soldiery from the U.S. When I left NZ and moved to the U.S. in 1993, the ceremonies here weren't half as well attended as they are now. (OK, I've never been to any, so I'm going by media coverage and that might be incorrect.) When I came back roughly 15 years later, everything seemed to have changed. I see crowds walking past my house on their way to the dawn ceremony each ANZAC Day. I had family who fought in WWII, though they're gone now. I absolutely respect bravery and courage for worthy causes, but I find I can't embrace these war/military commemorations. For the most part, I think they glorify unjust wars. Like the one we are involved in now.

Hugh said...

There were lots of African soldiers at Gallipolli as well, but you never hear about them, either.