Thursday, 25 April 2013

Day 140: Anzac Day...war and memory

Day 140 (25 Apr) Thursday, Anzac Day. A day away from work, a day for much reflection. 'War and memory' was a recent lecture topic. It is a day of mixed feelings. Given my tendency to advocate for a Kantian world view, I prefer we reflect on Anzac Day as a way to move towards a world without war, a 'perpetual peace'. 

Dawn, Anzac Day
A little later, at 6.12am
Anzac Day begins at dawn. The light begins at my place just before 6.00am and at 6.12am the sun is on its way up. Anzac Day itself has been through a number of changes in my lifetime. At high school each year, the senior students were responsible for putting together an Anzac Day service for the Wednesday school assembly closest to 25 April. There was a concern in the 1970s that Anzac Day as a commemoration was beginning to diminish. The original ANZACs, those who landed on the shores of Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 were succumbing to old age. 

Living in Canberra in 1990, I went along to the 75th anniversary commemoration at the Australian War Memorial. Seeing the original Anzacs struck a chord. They were so young when they went, their faces still showed the pains of war. You hear stories of returned soldiers who refused to participate in the marches over the years, they didn't want to remember the horrors. I remember the way Vietnam Veterans were treated as second class veterans. It was a sad part of our history. The Vietnam War is embedded in popular culture and war and memory has mingled. 

At the going down of the sun
Writing about Anzac Day,
at 6.12pm
As an amateur musician, I have participated in Anzac Day ceremonies in recent times as a member of a marching band or a big band. It is a privilege to play Glenn Miller music on such a day. A greater privilege to see the smiles on the faces of women and men recalling a time long past. 

Much of the day I do spend thinking about the mixed feelings one has on this day. Anzac Day is now commemorated on each 25 April (previously it had been the nearest Monday, thus making it a long weekend). I have friends from Japan who are similarly ambivalent about commemoration of war. The Japanese prime minister has today, again, asserted his rights to attend Yasukuni Shrine to pay respects to Japanese soldiers and yet that action engenders hostility throughout the region. And yet...

I look forward to a time when war is no more and is just (nothing but a) memory. 

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