I grew up in a forces environment. There was a huge weight of expectation on me to join the military – specifically the air force – when I left school that I point blank (irony in choice of words there) refused to do. Mostly because I didn’t want to, being born in the 60’s and affected by the hippies more than I thought possible, and also by the punk movement and partly because I wasn’t out as gay. The military didn’t take gay men and women at the time. I was deeply anti-war, put on CND benefit gigs and supported and participated in non-violent direct action against nuclear bases up and down the country and was heavily involved in the almost legendary Sheffield Peace Centre squat.
I don’t regret any of that. However typically freudian rebellion knee jerk, etc…. I don’t regret anything I did.
I’m, obviously, much older now. Priorities and ideals change. What we did back then hasn’t really achieved anything tangible.
Wars continue to be fought, people continue to die. It still all seems a terrible waste and the hippy in me wishes we could all get along and celebrate and respect our differences without attempting to convert or kill, etc…
But something has changed.
There was a period where you mentioned war and I went into a self-righteous monologue, refusing to accept any arguments for the necessity of an armed force. Now, well, I’d prefer it if there were no need for it, but see it as a necessity. Rather than sweep it under the carpet as an unfortunate and embarrassing necessity, I find myself in total admiration of those who willingly put their lives at risk so that I can live a relatively carefree life. To that end I found myself almost apopleptic with rage this morning when two women refused to stop talking during the two minutes silence. Luckily I wasn’t the only one and several people gave them a good mouthful when it had ended. It shamed them into leaving.
It’s easy for me to say, oh but they were young, I was like that once, yadda yadda yadda… but when I think about it, we were taught all this stuff at school. HOw can they not know about it? They weren’t making any protest, just yammering about boys and Lady Gaga, so how could they not be aware of what was going on? How could they not care that they were upsetting a lot of people? If it was a protest, I could respect that, to a degree, but this was just obliviousness and vacuousness. How did they not get what was going on when it had been announced a couple of minutes earlier? How could they not know or care?
It’s kind of embarrassing, in a way, the reversal of my beliefs came about as it’s mostly because of popular culture. I certainly wouldn’t have put myself into any arena where by neutrality or positivity towards the forces was likely – in my arrogance – so it crept up on me unawares with things like Blackadder goes Forth and A Few Good Men. THey opened my eyes to the possibility of nobility and sacrifice in the armed forces. The War on Terror sort of consolidated that. As much as I disagreed with the need for the war, I am kind of in awe of the fact that people were willing to go and be killed so that I can lead a life of freedom.
I still wont wear a poppy, white or red, but that’s more because I don’t like public, communal displays. I know how I feel about it and don’t feel the need to display poppies. If people misinterpret that as not caring, then they are wrong and let them.
But I’m still saddened that all that anti-war stuff in the 80’s came to nothing.
No doubt I’ll witter on more about this later…..but in the meantime, I’ve just remembered the most shocking Memorial Sunday faux pas. About 6-7 years ago, we were in town on Sunday morning; the Memorial Service had just finished, the shops were opening and one bright spark starts to set up a small vending table. To sell replica guns. On armistice day. Unbelievable. He didn’t last long. Apart from the constant verbal abuse he got, loads of people just went straight to the police and got him shut down.