This week we once again reflect on the sacrifices of those who have suffered through the terror of war as we gather on ANZAC Day. As we do so, I think it is also important that we reflect on something that I often think is missing from ANZAC Day.
Whenever I think of the ANZAC tradition I cannot help but go back to school. I remember the assemblies, the special projects, and the books and films about the ANZAC heroes. Today, these experiences are extremely real. I have family members who are, or have been, in the armed forces. These are people I love and I respect a lot of the work they do. They are the people I also fear will one day be asked to go to a war zone.
And it is in reflecting on this that I cannot help but think of the contradictions in how we celebrate ANZAC Day. If I look back at our school celebrations there is often one thing missing; what a futile exercise the Gallipoli mission was. Of course the people who were there were extremely brave, and suffered greatly, but the mission was a disaster from the start. It was one that sacrificed thousands of lives and resulted in no strategic advantage in the war.
And this is the contradiction that exists in the way I see us celebrating ANZAC Day. We seem unable to disconnect the value of war, and the sacrifices people make at war. All sacrifice is celebrated as an essential defense of our lives and freedoms.
I can understand it of course. When we see such loss of life, it is natural to try to find a reason for it. We want to be able to think that these sacrifices were for a worthy cause – they were essential to protecting our lives.
But when I reflect on the battle at Gallipoli, and the conflicts brewing around the world, I cannot help but think there must be a better approach than this.
For me, part of acknowledging the sacrifices made in wars past is to also work towards ensuring they don’t have to be made again. As we face future threats, whether it is global terrorism, or those many see posed by Syria, Iran or North Korea, the drums of war are being beaten once again.
I hope that this ANZAC Day we can sit back and genuinely think about whether a future sacrifice is truly worth it. In the past I think we’ve made the wrong decision. Every ANZAC Day therefore I think it is our job to make sure that doesn’t happen again. That, for me, is something we could really take out of ANZAC Day.