Remembering the dead and the courage of those who survived them

wp-1478848543566.jpg11th November is when I remember the 20,000,000 people, mostly civilians, who were killed in the World Wars.

In previous years I’ve given thanks that Europe has gone through six decades without tearing each other apart.

i know there are wars elsewhere, always, but this is where I live and where my heart is, so Europe is my focus today.

i woke with dampened spirits. Britain is being worked up by the press and men like Farage into myopic xenophobia. Le Penn may take France the same way. Merkel is under threat in Germany for being seen to be too kind to people fleeing wars of their own, even though we’ve turned thousands away and shamefully paid Turkey to sweep them out of our sight.

The weather matches my mood. The cold bright sun of late Autumn has been replaced by over-dark mornings, dull cloud and the first snows of Winter.

It feels like a day to remember the dead.

My imagination can’t cope with remembering 20,000.000 people I didn’t know, so I focus on remembering people I have lost painfully early.

I remember the shock of realizing that all the things I had imagined or taken for granted about our future together, all those possibilities, had collapsed, leaving a knife scar across the face of my future.  I remember grief clamping me in its maw and never fully relaxing its grip.

i try to imagine early violent death becoming an unremarkable part of each day and living with that reality for months and years and I am amazed that anyone survived it with hope and kindness in their hearts.

Yet, in Britain, that generation chose to look after each other; to provide free health care for the sick, public housing for those who needed it and pensions for the old.

When I remember that, it makes me ashamed that my generation, after decades of peace, has produced an unkind, unjust, uncaring culture of angry,  disappointed selfishness.

When the politicians speak of sacrifice today and poems are read “lest we forget”, what I will choose to remember is that those who survived the war had the courage to be kind.


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