Remember the fallen, past and present

Rudyard Harrison

As we drove across the green fields, on the approach to the Dardanelles, our guide remarked that we were driving over the graves of thousands of soldiers.

Gallipoli is the site of the slaughter of over a hundred thousand soldiers during the Allies futile attempt to wrest control of the strategic Straits from Turkey during World War I.

The whole thing was a fiasco from beginning to end, and left a stain on the records of those in command.

In November the world remembers the tragic loss of life in the two World Wars, and the many conflicts that followed.

We believe that if we forget about these events, history may eventually repeat itself.

Unfortunately, many young people appear to know little of this period.

This disturbs and disappoints me, particularly in light of the resurgence of right wing politics in Europe and the United States.

Where have we gone wrong?

Has the relatively recent fear of communism blinded us to the threat of nationalism? While it is important to pay homage to those who fought for our freedom, it is equally important to keep the memories alive.

It is 75 years since the end of WWII.

Many commemoration ceremonies have been held and many books have been written about those tumultuous years, yet I suspect that the Boomer generation is the only one that feels a connection with this time in our history.

What about our children and grandchildren? Surely we will fail them if we do not make an effort to fill the gaps in their knowledge of the past?

We should try to live fully in the present and plan cautiously for the future, however, this activity must be informed by the past.

We will stand very unsteadily on the shoulders of the previous generation if we are unwilling to learn from their experiences.

I think that they would want us to learn from their failures as well as their successes.

It is possible that they are among the “large crowd of witnesses” that surround us and cheer us on when we strive to make the world a better place.

It is also important to share our stories, and the stories of our forebears, with our children and grandchildren.

In the telling of these stories we will all be enriched, we will discover a treasure trove of knowledge and resources, and we will be helped to build a strong family and community.

Remembering those fallen in battle does not preclude remembering those who are presently “falling” under the heavy burden of unpaid accounts, unserviced debts, repossessed belongings, failed businesses, retrenchment, homelessness and hunger.

Families are crowding into one another’s homes in an attempt to reduce living expenses after their traditional breadwinners were fired.

This uncomfortable but necessary practice is resulting in increased levels of tension, anxiety and conflict.

An innocent remark on Facebook comes to mind… Someone shared joyfully that she had already completed all of her Christmas shopping.

A friend chided her, saying “while shopping, did you give a thought to those who will spend the season with nothing on their plates let alone in their stockings!”

This year we have a serious opportunity to show clearly what the season is really about.

All of us, regardless of our religious affiliation or economic status, can voluntarily suspend the traditional practice of giving to those who already have an abundance of material possessions.

Let’s be frank, it can be downright embarrassing listening to the comments of family and friends when they are opening their presents.

What a waste of money! What a useless gift! I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing that jersey!

I wonder where they bought this tie! And my favourite; I will put this aside for regifting!

Go ahead and spoil others with lovely gifts on their birthdays, but at Christmas time let’s give to those who need it most.

Be creative and imaginative. Do your homework.

Identify a worthy person or cause and make a generous gift anonymously.

You can be guaranteed that expressions of deep gratitude and joy will be shared around their festive dinner tables. They will experience a real silver lining.


Rudyard Harrison is a retired Methodist minister, and a counsellor at the Ruach Centre in Somerset West.