It’s ANZAC Day. The day we become flag blinded and worship the glorious dead. No questions of why we sent so many of our best and brightest into the mincers of war, no questions of military and political incompetence, no questions of what exactly we have learned weeping beside the graves of the fallen, just a wide eyed desperation to ‘commemorate’ and hold that up as our national identity.
If we want to respect the glorious dead, then surely it is as the current generation promising the next generation that we won’t ever waste their precious lives for the obscenity of war. That is how we remember the dead, by demanding from ourselves that we never make the same broken mistakes of the past.
Seeing as the story of our conscientious objectors is only now being examined in popular culture, I doubt we have the maturity as a nation to move beyond the flag waving to learn anything .
A poem for John Key on the ANZAC Day a NZer was drone assassinated by our ally America.
The Gunner’s Lament
A Maori gunner lay dying
In a paddyfield north of Saigon,
And he said to his pakeha cobber,
“I reckon I’ve had it, man!
‘And if I could fly like a bird
To my old granny’s whare
A truck and a winch would never drag
Me back to the Army.
‘A coat and a cap and a well-paid job
Looked better than shovelling metal,
And they told me that Te Rauparaha
Would have fought in the Vietnam battle.
‘On my last leave the town swung round
Like a bucket full of eels.
The girls liked the uniform
And I liked the girls.
‘Like a bullock to the abattoirs
In the name of liberty
They flew me with a hangover
Across the Tasman Sea,
‘And what I found in Vietnam
Was mud and blood and fire,
With the Yanks and the Reds taking turns
At murdering the poor.
‘And I saw the reason for it
In a Viet Cong’s blazing eyes –
We fought for the crops of kumara
And they are fighting for the rice.
‘So go tell my sweetheart
To get another boy
Who’ll cuddle her and marry her
And laugh when the bugles blow,
‘And tell my youngest brother
He can have my shotgun
To fire at the ducks on the big lagoon,
But not to aim it at a man,
‘And tell my granny to wear black
And carry a willow leaf,
Because the kid she kept from the cold
Has eaten a dead man’s loaf.
‘And go and tell Keith Holyoake
Sitting in Wellington,
However long he scrubs his hands
He’ll never get them clean.’
James K Baxter
It’s important for us to pay lip service on ANZAC Day, it isn’t necessary that we learn anything.