When I was driving to work yesterday, on the radio there was a special Anzac Day telecast from Gallipoli, Turkey. This day marks the 100 year anniversary of the Australian Army landing at Gallipoli. For many of my generation, Anzac Day and the Gallipoli legend was an important part of our national consciousness, and one that we stopped respectfully, each year, to mark on April 25th.
When I was growing up there was no trading allowed on Anzac Day. It was an official public holiday, to mark the loss of those who had died protecting their country. The only Anzac themed merchandise available for purchase was the Anzac Pin, sold by volunteer returned service men, on train stations and in shopping centres. With 100% of the money raised used to support returned service men.
As a teenager, it was a bit of drag, and made for a boring day at home. Collectively, those quiet April 25ths spent at home watching the Anzac Day march on TV has meant that it is a now day of reflection, to be grateful for the freedom we have, thanks to those previous generations who lost their lives or their sanity, fighting for our freedom.
I fear this is being lost. Today at 1pm you can resume you normal Saturday routine. You can go to the shopping centre, to the movies, to the zoo if you want to. And if you choose to go shopping, you can buy an Anzac Day memorial bear, for $89.99! And if you happen to be little bit uncomfortable about purchasing this ‘memorabilia’ you can sooth your conscience with the knowledge that 10% of the sale price is going to the RSL.
I fear that as time passes, as more generations grow older, we become further removed from what we are meant to be commemorating. It’s real to me, because my Grandad fought in the first world war. I was 15 when he died, but I remember that he couldn’t talk about the war. It was too upsetting. When my sister interviewed him for her Year 12 History assignment he got so upset (ostensibly with his buzzing hearing aid) he threw the hearing aid across the room and got up and limped out of the room. His limp came from shrapnel that was permanently lodged in his leg.
He refused to march in the annual Anzac Day march, everyone wanted him to but he refused. He finally relented on the 75th Anzac anniversary, but under great duress – and it was the only one he took part in. I understand why now. He did not want to remember. He did not want to celebrate it. If he could see the circus it has become, he would be deeply upset.
Circus may sound a bit harsh, but consider whats on offer – ‘trip of a lifetime’ organised tours to Gallipoli, local camp-out events, ridiculously expensive Anzac Day bears, plastic 2-up sets, fake war-time pennies, stubby holders…
Extract from For the Fallen
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Laurence Binyon (1869–1943)
Juxtapose this poem with the sideshow that it has become today, and you will see the travesty of the Anzac legend. We do our grandfathers and great grandfathers a disservice of great proportions by buying in to this.
Reflect on Laurence Binyon’s poem (you can read the full poem here) and mark our Anzac’s sacrifices in a respectful and meaningful way, that has nothing to do with the purchasing of bears or any other merchandise.
Lest We Forget.
Quote attributed to Harry Emerson Fosdick