Monday, May 28, 2007

Remembrance

Apparently it was Memorial Day in the States. Hopeully I can be forgiven for missing it, since it's not a holiday in New Zealand, so nobody mentions these things.

Also, I have a lousy time with the usual seasonal holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween) on account of the seasons being upside down. There's frost on the ground this morning, and the maples and beeches out my back window are colored like bright torches.

We don't have Memorial Day in New Zealand, but we do have ANZAC Day. Very similar, both started in the days after The War to End All War. For ANZAC Day, people wear a red poppy to show their support.

Personally, I find the poppy a lovely, resonant, poetic image. Those young men cut down on the fields of Flanders, their lives barely begun. That single blood-colored blossom is a powerful symbol of the tragic human losses of war. Kiwis don't do anything with the yellow ribbons. They look at me funny when I tell them it's from a Tony Orlando song.

ANZAC Day is different from Meorial Day in one major way: the Kiwi experience of war. NZ has a long record of sending more volunteers (per capita) than its once-parent, Great Britain. They also have a long history of being as poorly used as Britain's other colonies. Think, "We need someone to draw the enemy's fire while we dither about elsewhere."

Gallipoli taught Kiwis a hard lesson in war. As so often in that war (and in wars to come), they were given a tough job without proper preperation or supply, left in an untenable situation and died in terrible numbers. That they accomplished as much as they did is a testament to their toughness and ingenuity. Read about it here.

Gallipoli left scars on the Kiwi psyche. They're still thinking about it today. 'Birth of national identity' is a very kind way of saying 'loss of innocence.' It was obvious to all concerned that the benevolent parent was only looking out for itself, and nobody cared about New Zealand but New Zealand.

Kiwis became wary of rhetoric, and they still are. But it never stopped them from commiting when they believe the cause is just. They still sent an amazing percentage of their men into WWII, though fewer into Vietnam. Since I've lived here, I've seen big pushes to stop civil wars in East Timor and Fiji. They sent troops to Afghanistan, but not to Iraq. They'll fight, but only with their hearts in it.

I was born in the US, and I love it as only someone estranged is able. I hope seventy or eighty years from now, Americans will remember a time when rich old men used flags and fear to waste too many young lives.

Of course, I'll probably go on some sort of watch list for this...

4 comments:

Steve Malley said...

Who'm I kidding? The protesting I did back in the day, I've probably already *got* a file...

Charles Gramlich said...

I watched Patton the other night again, and it really showed how both Patton and Montgomery used their troops like Cannon fodder to advance their own egos. How much of that is going on now? Hum...

cs harris said...

It is frightening how war has somehow become equated with all that is nobel and good in the human spirit. On an individual level, it IS inspiring, but on the collective level, frightening. They used to have Confederate Memorial day down here in the South. Now it's politically incorrect. All those poor kids thought they were dying for God and Freedom. Now their descendants have decided no, so they're quietly forgotten.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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