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.
img_7639

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.

grandparents-mackay

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.

 

Quote of the Week: Politics and How to tell who is trustworthy

IMG_6686

This advice from Gloria Steinem’s mother is similar to what I’ve always advised young people to do. Whether it be when they are dealing with so-called ‘friends’ treating them in a crummy way, or looking at who to vote for in an election. Actions tell you more about a person’s character than what they say in the moment.

How many times have people said ‘I love you‘ – yet their actions show that this isn’t actually true?

How many times has a politician made a speech – yet when it comes down to the vote they fail to deliver?

Yes, Ruth Steinem. You are right to advise us to always look at what people do, not at who they are.

The House of Lords has long been a controversial part of our political and legal system in the United Kingdom. They get to vote on bills (or amendments to bills), but we do not get a say in who gets to be one of those ‘Lords’. There is no method of keeping those placed there accountable.

And yet, on Monday night when 294 MPs disgustingly voted to not allow the UK to accept 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children – currently homeless, extremely vulnerable and fleeing conflict – it was yesterday that the House of Lords stood up and said: the vote was wrong, we need to allow these children into our country.*

These are some of the same MPs who commended Sir Nicholas Winton for the Czech Kindertransport – he saved 669 Jewish children arranging safe passage to Britain and homes for them there just before the outbreak of the second world war. They might have saved more if Franklin Roosevelt and his American government had not refused to take children as well. Sadly 250 children who were due to leave on 1st September 1939 never made it through as the Nazis invaded Poland. Almost all of them died in the war/holocaust as a result.

As the Scottish elections draw closer (I’ll be voting next Thursday along with all other registered voters in Scotland) I’m learning that campaign pamphlets don’t tell me much about the people I can vote for. Often they’ve been made by others and they are full of propaganda. What I’m finding telling is the way they act in public when they are not in the limelight at a rally or event or hustings. The way they speak on twitter about and to others. Last week I wasn’t sure where my two votes were going to go. That has most definitely changed in the last few days.

I am grateful that in 2010, I voted for an MP who was willing to stand up and vote against his party when it came to breaking a promise they had made to the British voters. On that same note, while they are not my MPs, I’m glad that there were at least 5 Conservative MPs who were willing to vote against their party on Monday and followed their conscience instead. That is what we need in our politicians. So well done Geoffrey Cox, Tania Mathis, Stephen Phillips, Will Quince and David Warburton for doing that. I just hope that come next week, voters in Scotland will be voting for people who will be willing to do what is right over simply following their party line if (and likely when) the time comes to do that in parliament.

*PS – If you are a UK citizen, and you’re as disgusted and angry as I was about Monday night’s vote, please do consider signing this official petition to UK Government/Parliament to tell them that you want them to vote to accept these children. As the Shadow Immigration Minister said “We can’t turn our backs on these vulnerable children in Europe, and history will judge us for that.

Remembering…

  
When I headed to the cenotaph I was neater than when I took this selfie I promise. But after eating my porridge, ironing (apparently there IS one in the house), getting two units sorted with their new neckerchiefs, finding a replacement for our flag escort who had come down sick, dealing with a Guide who took ill at the end of the war memorial outdoor service, the youth remembrance service at church and fought through stormy weather to get to our annual leaders lunch at Mimi’s Bakehouse. I had gotten to my usual state of bedraggledness. 

To me Remembrance Sunday is not about calling people heroes. It is remembering the cost of war and why we need peace not violence. When I think of world war 1 and the heinous decisions, the propaganda, the advantage governments took of vulnerable impoverished men…it makes me feel ill. When I think of my great great grandfather who drowned along with many others coming home from war and how their families were dismissed because their deaths weren’t counted as being killed in action, it makes me angry. And when I see and hear  prejudice and racism I fear we have not learned from our history.

So on Sunday, I stood to remember.

And hope for a more peaceful future for our world.

At 11 am today I will remember again.

And say never again, lest we forget, never again.

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.