Lest we forget. Three simple words that effortlessly roll off the tongue at this time of the year, but has their true meaning been forgotten?
‘Lest we forget’ sounds at first blush like a prompt, a reminder of sorts, a yellow post-it note stuck to the fridge door: ‘Anzac Day this Sunday. Don’t forget poppies, beer and two-up.’ But what is forgotten about those three familiar words is that apart from reminding us to remember, as it were, they also contain a specific warning. And it’s a warning we would do well to heed nowadays more than ever.
The warning is an ongoing as well as a bloody one, but it is rarely spelled out. However, if there were more space at the base of the various cenotaphs, monuments and plaques for a more detailed explanation than just those three words, it would probably read something like this:
‘If you fail to learn the lessons of your past, if you fail to respect and retain the values that your society was built upon, if you treat your history with disdain and contempt, if you refuse to stand up for those principles that your ancestors died for, if you fail to educate your children to not only respect those principles but to understand why they are so important, if you traumatise your young with false threats and ideological fearmongering, if you trash individual identity, if you denigrate the concepts of free speech, freedom of expression and free thought, if you fail to discipline your children or neglect to teach them self-discipline, if you ignore the ancient codes of morality and religious values that are your birthright, if you dismiss the critical role of family as the cornerstone of your community, if you pretend you are immune to the laws of biology, if you tear down statues and vandalise classical literature and art, if you reject reason and flirt instead with superstition dressed up as science, if you teach falsehoods and hoaxes instead of critical thinking and rational scepticism, if you wallow in guilt and self-loathing, if you fail to recognise the enemy at the doorstep, if you tear away at the very fabric of society that has nurtured you, if you replace the rule of law with suspicion, innuendo and gossip, if you refuse to grant the presumption of innocence, if you reject self-reliance and resilience, if you weaken yourselves physically, industrially, economically, mentally and spiritually, if you indulge in the self-absorption of perpetually being offended for the merest slight, if you point to prejudice and hatred where it doesn’t exist, if you crave victimhood, if you spend what you don’t have, if you refuse to protect your national as well as your cultural borders and if along with all of those things you also forget to thank those who serve to protect you every single day of your life then violence, chaos, anarchy, decline and bloodshed are as predictable and inevitable as the sun that rises over the Anzac dawn service.’
Lest we forget? Some might argue we have already forgotten.
The Morrison government this week announced a Royal Commission into veteran and serving Defence personnel suicides, just in time for Anzac Day.
The tragic suicides of men and women who were prepared to serve our country is a blight on our entire nation, the government, the military and society in general. It is to be hoped that the Royal Commission and the independent national commissioner will work in tandem to bring relief to the families of those who have died and, more importantly, begin the process of preventing any more suicides.
What is clear, however, is that the underlying issues are so vast, so deep and so entrenched that no matter how well-meaning the government’s approach may be, there is no escaping the conclusion that many who join the armed forces subsequently struggle to fit in or cope with everyday Australian life.
Indeed, as Rebecca Weisser points out in this week’s cover story, parts of our ‘woke’ culture are actively waging war on the military.
This Anzac Day, let us remember those who died at the hands of enemy forces, but also recognise that those who died at their own hands after having served this country in war deserve equal respect and gratitude for their service and gallantry.
Let us hope the Royal Commission allows common sense, honesty and the truth to prevail, free of political spin or blame-shifting.
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