Lest we forget
I attended the memorial service at the Bribie Island RSL yesterday to remember all those who have gone before me and was a little put out by the ceremony. The local school choir got up and gave us a rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine and the Priest thought it reasonable to mention Bob Dylan as well. When the time came to sing the National Anthem, didgeridoos came across the speakers with the anthem tempo increased from the standard 4/4 to something like 6/8. No one could sing to it and the words were lost as people tried to keep up. There is proscribed music for the anthem and that definitely wasn’t it.
Lennon’s Imagine directly quotes the communist manifesto as he himself comments:
‘Imagine’, which says: ‘Imagine that there was no more religion, no more country, no more politics,’ is virtually the Communist manifesto, even though I’m not particularly a Communist and I do not belong to any movement.” He told NME: “There is no real Communist state in the world; you must realize that. The Socialism I speak about … [is] not the way some daft Russian might do it, or the Chinese might do it. That might suit them. Us, we should have a nice …British Socialism.Dillon just wrote and sang anti-war songs and become one of the main leaders on the Vietnam War protests and moratorium marches. I have his music on my IPhone list and enjoy some of it but he is what he is and never supported the soldier, rather he denigrated them. There’s a place for anti-war sentiment in the public debate, I just don’t think a November Memorial service in an RSL is it. No one there would’ve been pro-war but to take the stand they did questions the service and sacrifice of many men and women who we were remembering on this holy of days. While we were dying in South Vietnam Lennon and Dylan were a focus for the protesters and the only people to benefit from that were the Communists. In essence the Sub Branch politicised the service with an emphasis on the anti war movement and indigenous recognition. It made me think a young naive teacher with leftist leanings had grabbed hold of the ceremony and turned it into some sort of litany of protest of the evils of war and our treatment of our indigenous mates. Not good. Notwithstanding my sentiments on the conduct of the memorial service I managed to get back on subject and remembered my fallen mates and all those who remain forever young from the Boer War through to Afghanistan. When I say ‘Lest we forget” I would caution certain Sub Branches that they don’t forget why they exist and not to confuse politics with sacrifice.
1735099 on the organising committee?
…or someone like him
Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.
The question posed by your post is how this should be commemorated. There is a sense in which your post implies that ex-service personnel should have a large say in this “how”, and I wouldn’t argue with that.
What I would argue with is the notion that no-one else has any right to shape the ceremony or any say in how the day should be remembered.
As a teacher, I’m acutely aware that dragging a bunch of kids along to a commemoration is hardly worthwhile if they see it as a break from class. It’s always necessary, whether we (as old soldiers) like it or not, to make the form of the ceremony relevant.
If this means Bob Dylan and John Lennon, so be it. I doubt that the kids pay any real attention to the underlying political meme behind the lyrics. Dylan, by the way, when interviewed on the subject, always denied that was any political message behind his music and lyrics.
The important thing is that they were there, the dead were honoured, and these kids have, at the end of the day, understood the significance of it all.
As to the hat tip to our indigenous brothers, I have no problem with that. There were two Murris in my rifle section in 7RAR. One was WIA in April when we ran into a bunker system, and RTAd. He never completely recovered, and I never saw him again. He died in 1996.
It was great to spend a few days at the recent reunion with the other one, a good soldier, always a comedian, and getting funnier as he gets older.
The point is, however, as you probably observed in your career, race is a non-issue in a rifle platoon in particular and the army in general. It should also be a non-issue in a remembrance ceremony, but using a didgeridoo in a commemoration is about as significant as using bagpipes.
The only difference is that the instruments come from different traditions. We’re stronger as a nation because of this mix. Let’s celebrate it.