Last survivng Anzac, Alec Campbell
I have always struggled with Anzac Day. On the one hand, I do want to remember the horror that is war and the sacrifice our soldiers made, but on the other, I can’t shake the feeling that eulogising our fallen soldiers masks that as we turn them into flawless heroes who only ever did what was good and honorable fighting for our freedom, and we come dangerously close to eulogising war itself.
And then I hear the words of returned soldiers like Alec Campbell.
So this Anzac Day I want to remind myself that war is an evil. It may at times be a necessary evil, but that doesn’t make it any less evil. It is unadulterated violence, limbs torn from bodies, lives extinguished, infrastructure essential to living decently destroyed, children terrorized. It is something to be avoided at all costs.
I want to remind myself that soldiers do brave and courageous things, put their lives on the line, and are to be honored for that, but at the end of the day their job is to kill people, and this is not something to celebrate but to grieve.
I want to remind myself that we do terrible things during war. Atrocities are committed by both sides. We have our My Lais and Abu Grahibs. And it shouldn’t surprise us. Send people into a situation of total violence and this sort of thing happens.
I want to remind myself that wars are fought for often very cynical motives. I recently began reading a book by Bill Clinton’s official historian. Clinton met with him regularly and talked through what was happening. On one occasion Clinton shared how he had begged European leaders to allow NATO to do more to halt the violence in Bosnia and had been met with refusal because they didn’t feel Europe was ready for a Muslim state. This was a war allowed to continue for very cynical motives, but it exposes just how “real politic” rules the world.
I want to remind myself that Jesus calls me not to hate my enemy but to love my enemies, and chose the path of non violence. I am still not sure how this translates into every context, but it is the path I will choose to follow as best I can.
It is perhaps ironic that the day most sacred to Christians, Good Friday, is in such close proximity to the day most sacred to Australians, Anzac Day. One declares God conquers evil not with violence but with suffering love. The other declares that brute force still rules the world.