This post is dedicated to my brave, handsom and charismatic cousin who serves today in the Australian Army. We are so proud of you Daniel – stay safe and continue your rascal ways.
Today is ANZAC Day, a very special day for Australians and New Zealanders to honour those who have died and suffered in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Australians and New Zealanders who wish to pay their respect to the sacrifice and memory of service men and women attend an emotionally charged dawn service, where two minutes silence helps you reflect and the sound of a lone bugler rips your heart out.
As a new expat living away from Australia was I struggling to connect with this spiritual day. Last night I joked with my sister that I have a free pass to sleep-in, but even as the word spilled from my mouth they horrified me. We discussed all the ways that I could pay my respects and our ideas included hosting a private dawn service at our local Buddhist temple and finding a retired serviceman to give my awkward thanks and possibly a batch of brownies. My sister suggested that I write a post about war and Laos.
Laos has a history of war as rich as any other. A complex web of invasions, conflict and surrenders are documented from the very beginnings of its history. If you can think of a reason for conflict then someone in Laos has most likely fought for or against it. Even within history as recent as the 1940’s the Lao people have fought for reasons including race, land, imperialism, anti-colonialism and communism. There is, however one aspect of Laos’ war speckled past that all those under protection of the western allied forces can be held somewhat accountable. Just as our men fell and suffered in the Vietnam War so too did thousands of unknowing Lao citizens sadly caught in the middle of a strategical attack by Australian allies. The details of this war are complex and compellingly interesting so I will hold off on specifics until another post where I can give the subject a greater respect. Today it is simply my purpose to acknowledge that both sides of war equally endure injury and suffering.
It’s not my intention to preach that war is bad or what’s right and what’s wrong. I don’t even assume to have a hard and fast position on any war, past or present. I know that in our current level of social consciousness, war is inevitable. I can only hope that one-day, most likely beyond my lifetime, we ascend beyond the idea of armed conflict as an appropriate resolution. Perhaps the first step toward this idealistic future is the notion of empathy.
I am in awe of the sacrifice that Australian men and women made for future Australian generations. Very few Australians from my generation understand the sacrifices of conflict and the permanent scar it leaves on your soul.
This ANZAC day is a little different for me. Not because I am isolated from the ceremony and ritual of the day but because this is the first time that I have considered the sacrifice of our opponents alongside our allies. Both sides fight for their families and the preservation of their life as they know it. Both sides sustain the same untold suffering,
So today on Anzac Day perhaps we could afford a moments thought beyond our own brave and selfless service men and women to every man, woman and child ever affected by war. Perhaps our empathy will be the element that one-day brings peace.
Image is kindly supplied by http://www.stanford.edu