In Australia, far removed geographically and by generations from major conflict, it’s easy to be ambivalent about Remembrance Day. War is a terrible thing, and the arguments that Remembrance Day glorifies militarised violence carry a lot of weight when we see so many conflicts around the globe driven by ignorance, fear and greed.
Moving to Europe, however has lent a new perspective on the importance of Remembrance Day. We live in a time when travel and communication are incredibly easy. It is not difficult to contact your loved ones, see their faces on a screen, hear their voices, keep up to date with their lives and experiences and share your own. Yet even so, living overseas can be an incredibly lonely and isolating experience at times. And it is in those times that I can only begin to grasp the enormity of what the ordinary men serving in the World Wars did.
It is both a harrowing and humbling experience to stand before the grave of an Australian soldier, so far from home. To look around and see the graves of thousands of other soldiers from all across the globe, at once all brothers in arms and total strangers. To look at the dates on his tombstone and realise that when he was younger than I am now, he died in a strange country, his future hopes of returning home to family, friends, comfort and security abruptly taken away. To wonder whether he was scared, in pain or alone. To wonder whether his family ever got to visit the cemetery and lay flowers on his grave.
It is easy, in the security of our stable lives, to forget the humanity for the politics.
I do not want to glorify war, but I am proud to remember those who died believing that they were fighting for a better world.
Lest we forget.