Don't shrug your shoulders (it's always easy)
You can't ignore
That life is worth living, It's still worth a damn
One might be forgiven for thinking
it's something of a sham
Many words may make it sound contrived
but somehow we're alive
(The survivors) Our heads bowed
(The survivors) At memorials for other faces in the crowd
Teachers and artists (it's never easy)
Tomorrow it will 92 years since the end of World War 1 and an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of not just those who fell in The Great War, World War II and other conflicts since but also those who survived but at great cost either physically or mentally. It is fair to say that no-one returns unscathed from war. Soldiers witnessed horrific scenes and underwent experiences that would affect them for the rest of their lives whether it was life in the trenches, the gas attacks of Ypres or the Extermination camps of Auschwitz, Dachau and Belsen or simply seeing comrades that they fought against having their lives snuffed out in an instant by a bullet, mine or grenade.
It is difficult to objectively analyse the effects of war and conflict as political views often colour our perceptions of any war we are involved in. In Britain we look at WW1, WW2, Korea, the Falklands and the Gulf War as necessary wars fought because of aggressive invasion by other countries. However our views on Iraq and Afghanistan are just as polarised as American opinion was on Vietnam. How many people really look at Remembrance Day and see the true significance of what it represents. WW1 was a strategic war fought mainly to prevent German Hegemony on the European Continent, the results of a complex series of mutual defence treaties. WW2 on the other hand was a war fought against not just a strategic position but an ideal and a belief that National Socialism was wrong and should be stopped. As the range of Nazi atrocities was revealed at Nuremberg very few people questioned that stopping Hitler was the right thing to do. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands Britain went to war on a wave of national support for the conflict as British subjects were directly threatened but recent conflicts have not had that luxury. Whilst the Balkans War wasn't overly questioned as it was a UN-led operation the motives behind the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are constantly questioned as although few would deny that Saddam Huussein and the Taliban were repressive regimes we no longer live in a world where people view regime change as a legitimate aim of warfare. They may accept it as a by-product of a conflict where there is an imminent danger to our own shores but many do not believe that national security is defended by fighting in foreign fields.
This has led to a distinct change in the way that war veterans are viewed and treated. Anyone fighting in World Wars or the Falklands are treated with respect and understanding whereas those who have served in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq do not. They are insulted openly by some sections of the populace and treated as the aggressor rather than people who were simply fighting to protect our security by helping democracy take shape abroad.
This Remembrance Day please remember the sacrifices of the fallen and appreciate the freedoms that they have safeguarded but also remember those who survived the war as many have paid a high price either physically or emotionally as a result. The effect of conflict upon a nation should be to make them stronger as a group and driven by a collective will and unity. Let us all have the unity and will to appreciate what has been done for us by those who fight on our behalf.