Battle of The Somme commemoration. I will preface this by saying that my mother is German and my father British (grew up in Australia) and that both parents lost their fathers in WWII. They met in the sixties in London at a central tube station. The legacies of WWI WWII and ALL wars before have been passed down through generations. My family has been, and still is being, torn apart in so many ways as a result of the grief which my parents carried down the line with the loss of their fathers. And so the wars of 100 years ago are still living with me, personally, every single day. The repercussions of war are everlasting….
Why is this coming up today? Last night a friend played 1st violin in the orchestra which accompanied (live) the silent movie The Battle of the Somme. In a magnificent church in London a few stops from where my parents first met all those decades ago. Laura Rossi’s composition was subtle at times, rumbling with instruments simulating thunder or aircraft sounds and canon/ gun fire at others. Always spot-on in-synch with the deathly shots we viewed before us on this huge screen. I was not prepared for the impact of this experience at all. At all, I say! This orchestral piece will be played live to the film 100 times…that is their goal. If it comes your way, go see it.
The faces of these young Englishmen up close in their trenches, any one of which could have been my ancestor. The way they rounded up their German prisoners of war, again, any one of which could have been my ancestor. Many soldiers we watched jolly it up with a tin can soup would be dead in twenty minutes. I wept and wept. These strangers were my blood. (All strangers are our blood somewhere back down the line). As the live, full orchestra boomed, tinkled and marched on, frame after frame, the reality of our stupidity came back to me. I wept some more.
I know for a fact that anguish is what refugees and soldiers and grieving wives and mothers-to-be are hand down to the next generations. It is 100 years since this film was shot and we have learnt nothing it seems to me.
They fought with their lives for a united Europe. Metaphorically are we not spitting in their faces? And what about those trees on Anzac Parade in Sydney which were planted to eternalise them. It is the same thing. The micro informs the macro. We divorce Europe, we tear down memory. We tear down trees, we divorce the dead. It is all poetry, nasty, paradoxical poetry. We cut off from a brother or sister? The ripples move away from us and eventually join the tidal wave somewhere on the planet. Everything, everyone is connected.
We keep funding the ammunitions industries instead of feeding people. We turn down helpless innocents squeezed into boats on treacherous seas in their search for hope…hope to live, simple as that. Or we incarcerate them and leave them with Doctors whose voices we mute, who are not allowed to speak up about the ten year old rape victim they treat, or the boy who refuses to speak ever since having seen his own father tortured and then shot at point range and left to lie in the dirt. On it goes on it goes.
We in the Western world contributed to that war without taking any responsibility for it now. We simply turn our backs? And the politicians who actually do GOOD for the community and give us all hope, get shot in the street by the very weapons her own government funded. Whilst our small-minded, visionless politicians rise to power and feed the whirlwind of racist fascism sweeping the world just like it did 100 years ago.
And we bitch behind each others backs. And gripe about the petty details of nothing. Divorce a man or woman we once loved and then declare war on him/ her. And we take offence at innocuous jokes. Or the way someone else chooses to live. Or what they believe (let’s face it – none of us knows the Truth). We get offended?! Really? All this little stuff feeds the bigger picture, you know? It all matters.
Just let each other be. Don’t name-call each other, call one another on their actions with wisdom and grace instead of simply calling your sister or brother an idiot and waving it off like that takes care of it. Don’t pass your domestic wars down the line, particularly if you were partially responsible for them in any way. You probably don’t understand their perspective, their story, their pain…even if you think you do…if you are so busy judging or misunderstanding them then you don’t. It all feeds the war, do you see? Butterfly effect. It is real.
Every single little moment. Pages of history. Why can’t we talk to each other? Or just make music and art and emulate beauty…finding peace our own little ways.
Shame on us. Lest we forget. Kindness folks. Please, gentle kindness.