Two Minutes Silence is Never Enough November 11, 2010Posted by Phil Groom in Life, Watching and Waiting.
Tags: Armistice, Flanders Fields, G A Studdert-Kennedy, Poppy Day, Remembrance Day, Royal British Legion, Silence, War, Woodbine Willie
TWO MINUTES to remember those whose lives have been silenced for ever: how can that ever be enough? The only silence that can ever be enough is for the weapons of war to be silenced around the world — not just for two minutes but for ever. For all weapons of war, including the silent ones such as knives, spears and swords, to be set aside — to be turned into ploughshares and pruning hooks. How long, O Lord? How much longer will it be before you rend the heavens and come down to set our world — your bloody, torn up world — to rights?
Even as I type I know the answer: God will not come down in that way. The way he comes is in a mother’s tears and a baby’s cries, into a world of injustice where he stands as one man against the violence, where he calls others to stand with him — but in the end he dies, one man alone against the violence, destroyed by the violence, himself crying out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Today we too must stand, many will die and mothers will continue to weep. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, neighbours and friends will weep as lives are wasted by our violence. Because that is what war is, a waste:
WASTE of Muscle, waste of Brain,
Waste of Patience, waste of Pain,
Waste of Manhood, waste of Health,
Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth,
Waste of Blood, and waste of Tears,
Waste of Youth’s most precious years,
Waste of ways the Saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, waste of God,–
— G A Studdert-Kennedy, The Unutterable Beauty, p.21
But stand we must, remember we must; because if we forget, those lives laid down, lives still being laid down, will be completely wasted, laid down for nothing at all.
I’ll be spending part of today reading and rereading more of The Unutterable Beauty to remind myself of the terrible price humanity has paid and continues to pay for its greed and corruption. I shall wear my poppy not with pride but with sorrow: somehow it seems to me no coincidence that exactly the same keystrokes are needed on a mobile keypad to spell out the words ‘poppy’ and ‘sorry’ — because whatever the rights and wrongs of any particular war, there will always be more wrongs than rights. Until we learn that violence is not the way to resolve conflict, those blood-red poppies, silent sentinels in Flanders fields, will always be necessary, grim reminders of humanity’s crimes against humanity.
Missing — Believed Killed
On Reading a Mother’s Letter
‘TWERE heaven enough to fill my heart
If only one would stay,
Just one of all the million joys
God gives to take away.
If I could keep one golden dawn,
The splendour of one star,
One silver glint of yon bird’s wing
That flashes from afar;
If I could keep the least of things
That make me catch my breath
To gasp with wonder at God’s world.
And hold it back from death,
It were enough; but death forbids.
The sunset flames to fade,
The velvet petals of this rose
She only asked to keep one thing,
The joy-light in his eyes
God has not even let her know
Where his dead body lies.
O Grave, where is thy victory?
O Death, where is thy sting?
Thy victory is ev’rywhere,
Thy sting’s in ev’rything.
To all who have served in wars gone by and to those serving in our armed forces right now, including one of my own nephews in Afghanistan, I say simply, thank you: you are awesome.