Thursday, 10 November 2016

The reality of Remembrance

It seems to me that Remembrance, as found attached to a poppy, is one of the most misunderstood and misappropriated areas in which I find myself working.

Misunderstood because some think Armistice and Remembrance Sunday are all about glorifying war and engaging in jingoistic sabre rattling as we revel in having triumphed over our enemies.

Misappropriated because every year the same old, same old, is dragged out and the white poppies are, less than proudly displayed, and the pascifistic mantras are made apparent in much that same way as crosses are used against vampires in the old Hammer horror films.

Yesterday I had the privilege of teaching children about Remembrance and one of the schools had made a wall of poppies that flowed along the wall of their hall and tumbled down to the floor, a la that which adorned the Tower of London, many bearing the name of a family member.There were, side by side, poppies looking back to the 1914-18 conflict and those looking to serving and recently served family members - and in doing this the children of Flaxhill School had made Remembrance theirs.

Without someone, something or somewhere to be remembered how do we spend those two minutes of silence?

Yesterday we spoke of books the children had read: Anne Frank, the Boy in Striped-Pajamas, Private Peaceful, and others, all came to the fore. Characters and accounts that put flesh on historical accounts and give the warmth of life to the cold hard statues that adorn war memorials. The small stories that capture the imagination and bring the perspective that sadnesses such as war demand. His too became something to focus upon in that endless two minutes of silence.

Yesterday we spoke of how war is never glorious and of how the word 'glory' relates to a place, as in 'gone to glory' , and means dead; and in this spoke of the lives lost by combatants and civilians alike. We reflected on the way that war changes society at large and individuals in particular, changing the way we live and think; women working in factories, people of different colours becoming officers, pubs having closing hours, men returning with limbs, lives and minds broken and disfigured; those who forlornly waited for a loved one's return.

We spoke of those left behind - and as we did, great grandads and uncles lost in WWI were reanimated; a grandad with a leg missing from a recent conflict walked in and took a bow, a young, fresh-faced twenty something passed by singing 'Tipperary', a fearful child from a refugee camp peeked around the corner of the assembly hall door to remind us that little has changed in conflict's ability to scar and scare.

This is what Remembrance is all about - making the promise that 'Never Again!' would be more than a trite phrase uttered at times like this but would, in the many lives lost so wastefully, be made real in the shadow of the act of Remembrance we have made.

In another school we talked of war and Remembrance in a different way, bringing the parallels of conflict in war with those playground spats that those in an infant school so often engage in as they begin to feel their way in a world outside of the home. We spoke of making peace and making friends, dialogue rather than decking our assumed opponent and expanded this into the world of silly and selfish grown-ups.

Making friends rather than creating enemies was the key - and as the locks turned in the minds of those five and six year olds the hope that seeds sown for seeking peace rather than conflict became a reality. But the ground needs to be filled and watered - and this is what Remembrance, if handled well, does!

And grandads and uncles and other relatives who had served all came forward and took a bow and stood before these tiny little pieces of humanity as they stood amazingly still and quiet for those interminably long sixty seconds (for two minutes would surely be an imposition).

This is Remembrance - an act that in itself works to end wars and yet, whilst the wicked still exist, acknowledges the fact that there is sometimes the need to have those who are willing to stand for others and March away and remembers those that have done so never to return.

We pray for the day when wars shall cease and all those departed this life shall see the resurrection and Jesus, the Christ's, return and until then 'We will remember them' and continue to work for peace.

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