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Sunday, November 09, 2003

REMEMBRANCE THOUGHTS I still remember that this time last year I was angry. All who know me are aware that it takes quite something to make me angry. For reasons unbeknownst to me, both then and now, our vicar had decided that the best person to give the sermon was none other than Paul Oesterreicher, vice-president of CND. I kid ye not. Paul Oesterreicher explained that all wars where caused by solely economic factors and that there is never any moral argument in favour of using military force. He illustrated this point with reference to World War Two. Oesterreicher was basically saying that it is impossible to make a moral argument in favour of having removed Hitler’s regime by force. To be honest I shouldn’t have taken such amoral filth serious but it maddened me nonetheless. This year's eloquent sermon however was what a sermon on Remembrance Sunday should be. It dwelled on the horrors of war and the tragedy of the losses that war always brings with it. But it was also realistic to the extent that we were not led to think a world without war was just around the corner. It also made the point that sometimes freedom, justice and security can only be achieved by force of arms, tragic though as this always remains. I don't know what it tells us about the state of our Church that we needed a visiting rabbi to give such a sermon, but that's a thought for another day.
As is usually the case, David Aaronovitch is required reading:

War is a great and unpredictable misfortune, but today, as Rwanda showed us, it is not necessarily always the greatest. Deferred war can be worse than early action. Appalling though it is to say so, badly applied sanctions can cause more suffering than carefully applied bombs.
The Dutch UN forces, who watched while the worst massacre in 50 years on the European continent took place at Srebrenica, were too lightly - not too well - armed. Perhaps, as they watched the coaches being driven off, they were singing 'Where Have all the Flowers Gone?'.

(. . .)

We still depend, even in the days of Trisha and trauma counselling, on men and women who will, if necessary, die on our behalf. And I must express my astonishment and gratitude that they will.

I'm not as astonished as Aaronovitch, because I do understand the call to serve a greater good. I do feel as grateful though. Also, don't forget to remember all the Empire/Commonwealth volunteers such as the Indian ones that Kevin Myers reminds us of.
In a lot of places you’ll be hearing or reading John McCrae’s classic from 1915, but in case you miss it or have never read it here it is, the epitome of the meaning of this day:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and we now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up your quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

We will remember them.

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