The one where I ponder what we remember…

It’s been a terrible year. I was really sad to hear from my sister how the hate and incresingly right wing politics is spreading to Austria, and well…I think you’d have to be living in a cave not to know about what my friends in America have just gone through. I know a lot of people have complained about people protesting and holding rallies and vigils. Freedom is not guaranteed, and the things that the American President-Elect has promised to do is basically take away a lot of liberties from particular groups of people. There are already signs that WILL happen based on people he’s putting into office, so I think that people are right to be worried and use their voices. Not only that, for those who are genuinely afraid because of the awful things he has directed at them (or people that represent them), I hope it’s an encouragement to see that people are proactively saying what my Canadian-American friend has said in response to the events of this week:

I love you if you are Muslim. I love you if you are Black. I love you if you are Hispanic. I love you if you are gay. I love you if you are disabled. I love you if you are the victim of sexual assault. I love you if you are poor. I love you no matter what and will fight for you no matter what. 

And if he builds a wall, I will raise my children to tear it down.

It seems pertinent that on this week we have had the anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down and Armistice – a day we remember a ridiculous war that many young boys were cajoled into signing up for because they’d be ‘home by Christmas’. That was  followed by another world war that was started by a ridiculous politician that no one took seriously or thought would become their country’s leader. When he did he worked to  make people suspicious of people of a certain religion through media propaganda, and had the power to take full advantage of the groundwork laid.

On anniversaries, we pause to take stock. And remember.
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Remembrance Sunday has always meant something to me because my grandparents lived through it. My grandfathers fought in the army and navy during World War 2. My great-great- grandfather died tragically along with many others coming home from WW1 leaving his daughter (my great-grandmother) an orphan.

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My great-great-grandfather who died on New Year’s Morning 1919 during the sinking of the H.M.Y. Iolaire

But now I wonder, as I look around and see history repeating itself, and many friends and family members getting annoyed by people getting angry about it are sticking their heads in the sand. “It’s not that bad…?” they say. These wars did not begin with a world leader suddenly dropping a bomb one day. The holocaust didn’t just start one day with no warning. Countries refused to accept refugees for the same reasons we are hearing now. Mussolini announced when he was running for leader of Italy that it should be Italians first, and he would make Italy great again. We were down with slavery – we built our cities on it. We have people on our banknotes that were pro-slavery. We took over countries, and made them fight in our wars…and we don’t see anything about it on much of our ‘Remembrance Day’ documentaries.

Have we focused so much on teaching our children in schools about the events of the war – trenches, concentration camps, bomb sirens, evacuees – that we forgot to explain how these country’s leaders got away with starting the regimes that we ended up fighting against in the first place? How much do we white-wash our history – and what effect does this have on our indifference to others?

History teaches us that freedom is not guaranteed. We take over countries. We kidnap people. We teach people that they are less human. We feed people stereotypes so that they fear ‘the other’. We arrest people for no reason because we have a badge. We make out that our God is someone He is not and that they’d want us to vote for a particular person who favours us over ‘the others’ or kill those who aren’t like us. We segregate our schools. Our hospitals. Our beaches. Our neighbourhoods. We keep people who look like our decided ‘ideal’ in books, TV, film, plays in..and if the others are in they are portrayed as the ‘baddies’ or stupid.

The little things do matter.

And so because the little things do matter, when we all do our little bit, and stand up where we see even the small injustices and misrepresentations…it all helps the bigger picture.

When we know our God is about love, and that His son was a Palestinian Jew, and once a refugee fleeing genocide. When we see all of life in all its colour in our books, our TV shows, news casts, films and theatre productions. When we teach all of history – not just the bits that show certain figures demonised or perfected. Perhaps then we all come to the table with a better grip on reality, less patriotism and more humility – no matter where we come from.

And perhaps we’ll be more on our guard and ready to organise…to prevent such atrocities like slavery, the holocaust, genocides, apartheid…from happening again.

 

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#BookADayUK – Nov 11

Today the prompt is to share our favourite ‘World War 1’ book. IMG_0653

Last year, many of our Guides were learning about the World Wars at school, and so we decided to look at the history of Girlguiding ahead of Remembrance Sunday by doing their Traditions of Guiding badge (you can read more about that here).

For my own interest I bought a couple of books about the start of Girlguiding, and could not put one of them down. How the Girl Guides Won The War is an incredible collection of memories and parts of scrapbooks that Janie researched through the Girlguiding archives. Although I was aware of our emphasis on friendship with young people around the world and the fact that many Girl Guides learned mechanics, first aid, needlework and survival skills that were beneficial for the wartime periods, I had no idea what a key role the Girl Guides and Scouts had played during both Wars.

Scouts and Guides had only being going on a few years at the start of World War 1.

It’s not a strictly WW1 book. It begins there, but there is far more shared about the second world war – with Girlguiding members in occupied countries being tracked down and sent to concentration camps, the banning of Guiding and Scouting in many countries forcing them to meet in secret, and even tales of Guide units being set up in Prisoner of War camps in Asia. Either way, it was inspiring and enlightening to read.

Our units participate in services of remembrance each year to remember our sisters who went before us, and to especially remember the many, many men, women and children who have lost their lives prematurely due to war.

I recommend checking out Janie’s book, and if you want to find out about how needlework and Guiding combined to help send messages to loved ones through Changi Prison, you can see one of the quilts in the Imperial War Museum in London.

Lest We Forget…

Today is Remembrance Sunday.

Over the last year I’ve learned more about some of the history of WW2 that was brushed over in school. I only ever learned about the Holocaust and persecution of Jews. I learned nothing of the fact that Nazis sought after prominent members of Girlguiding, or the horrors of the torture in Japanese POW camps in Asia and the Burmese railway.

I only really learned about it when they started making a film about Eric Lomax. It came out earlier this year and it is called The Railway Man. Although parts of the story have been re-imagined for dramatic effect, I think it is a film that should be seen as is it telling a story that needs to be told. It is based on the true story told in Eric Lomax’s book of the same name. I recommend taking the time to see the film and/or reading the book if you can.

Different countries will have different days in which they do something similar to what we do in the UK today…remembering the horror of war and those who lost their lives prematurely because of it.

I’m no fan of war, and over the last year have learned more about the history of wars Britain has been involved in and how they affected people. Earlier this year I was in Germany – the country that was ‘the enemy’. I was shocked to see that most of the German cities I visited had no original architecture, as they had been bombed by us near the end of the war. I understand why it was done, but it still made me feel sick.

There have been much debates about the wearing of poppies over the last few years, as some feel that events relating to Remembrance Sunday and the Poppy Appeal are being used as propaganda to justify current wars.

I will be participating in local services of remembrance today as a member of Girlguiding (more on that on Tuesday). The reason I do that is because I believe it’s important to teach the whole story – the reason we remember the horrors of war is to hopefully teach the generations that have come after that war is well…horrific. And should be avoided at all costs.