Anzac day is important for remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice during wartime. From the minute I woke up today, my Facebook newsfeed flooded with people paying their respects at Dawn Services and attending marches across the country.
But as I scrolled through these posts I felt mixed. Not about the sentiment behind those images. Nor the futility of war that took the innocent lives being remembered – for this I am certain.
But for the various reasons people put forward for observing this day.
For some it was deeply personal, with relatives who have fought in conflicts or have served or are still serving in the armed forces.
For others, it was to give thanks for the ‘freedom’ we enjoy in our lives today.
And this is where I become uneasy.
What is this thing they call ‘freedom’ and does it apply to everyone who stands on our hard-fought-for soil? I wonder how the fallen soldiers would describe this ‘freedom’ they died for? Would they all have the same reason? Or would their reasons be varied?
And does this ‘freedom’ apply to everyone in Australia? To indigenous Australians? To asylum seekers? To people with varied ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs?
I also ponder what they would think about the Anzac Day celebrations. Would they turn their faces to the sun satisfied the circumstances in which they died would never be forgotten? Or would they lament that we have totally missed the point?
A war historian on the radio today said many WW1 veterans stayed away from Anzac day celebrations after they came home. They’d had enough of war. And now that they have all gone we have lost the ability to probe and understand this unease.
As we moved through the day, my Facebook stream started to fill with viral images of poppies and elderly men marching. “Share if your father or grandfather fought for your country”, cried one – the source a far right ‘street defence’ nationalist group from the United Kingdom, known for using populist images to dupe unsuspecting people into following their group.
I wonder how my great-grandfather who fought in the Battle of the Somme would feel if I associated his memory and his reason for fighting to this group?
Anzac Day is important. I will continue to observe and respect it for those who have fallen and for those who returned.
But never will I attempt to put words in their mouths and define for them the ‘freedom’ for which they sacrificed their lives.
Only they knew this.
Which is why we should not try to speak for the fallen soldiers. But we should always mourn their loss and remember the ultimate cost of war.
Lest we forget.